The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets
reviewed by Irving Bellemead
I don’t really know what’s going on here, but I think I like it. Apparently Spaceship Zero is the name of a very strange German TV show from the 1970s, which in turn was based on an American radio drama series from the 1950s. Those wacky Germans. Someone in Hollywood decided to make a movie of the show, but somehow it didn’t work out, which is why you’ve never heard of the movie (although you can check out what might have been at http://www.spaceshipzero.com). Before it didn’t work out, Vancouver’s favorite costume-wearing, H.P. Lovecraft-inspired punk-pop band (those wacky Canadians), The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets, was asked to do the soundtrack for the film, which resulted in the creation of the CD currently under review. Okay?
There’s something very strange about this disc, and I think that it has to do with the fact that it’s quite difficult to tell if this is an elaborately conceived and executed hoax (i.e. the soundtrack to a non-existent film), or if it’s just a case of a very good match between a band and a movie. In the end it doesn’t really matter, as most of the songs on this disc are strange and interesting regardless of whether they’re really inspired by a film or not.
So what does the soundtrack to a doomed film sound like? Pretty good. Musically, things stay on the poppier side of the punk-pop equation, although there are a few goofy nods to both dopey electronica and cheeseball heavy metal. The sound and production on the disc are terrific and the playing is tight and clean. Toren Atkinson’s vocals are exceptional, and he manages to make even the goofiest of lyrics sound cool (watch out Thurston Moore!).
Speaking of which, it’s really the lyrics that make these tracks more than slick, well-recorded pop songs. That’s not to say that they’re always particularly good lyrics, but at least they’re always interesting. In fact, they’re often pretty good.
Probably my favorite track is “The Math Song”, which includes the line:
(x[tan n]) – (pi/10) = -9
and is sung in quite a lovely manner. I find myself singing along with “The Chosen One” despite undecipherable lyrics like:
Like the star in the stone Of the elder thing
Like the deal that we made With the morlock king
And who could resist a song (“The Innsmouth Look”) with sexy lines like:
I dig her batrachian lips
Her bulbous eyes and scaly hips
She’s got secrets but they’ll soon be mine
Obed was a sailor,
He sailed the 7 seas
He made love to the fish, he made love to the fishies
So…this is a pretty strange CD. On the surface it seems like a slick soundtrack to a movie you’ve never heard of. As you dig deeper, you discover that it is the slick soundtrack to a movie that you’ve never heard of, but it’s slick in all the right ways, and in addition to being slick and really good sounding, it’s also very, very odd. That can only be a good thing.