The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets: Spaceship Zero [Divine Industries, 2000]
Two words? Spaceman rockin’
review on tangmonkey.com by Sean
There are few things more bizarre than a British Columbian rock band recording a faux-soundtrack to a German sci-fi show from the 70s. There’s nothing to stop the bizarre from being wholly kick-ass, however, and this album proves the rule. The Thickets have made a career out of being weird: the quintet from Chilliwack B.C. have released two disc-long homages to the horror of HP Lovecraft, but with their most recent album, they’ve shifted from Cthul[h]u to cheesy space opera. A full-blown concept album, Spaceship Zero recounts a narrative of Clone Hunters and slave ships. The lyrics aren’t any more inane than typical pop-punk fare, however, and there’s far more charm to “Math Song” – whose lyrics are mostly made up of mathematical formulae – than to the latest Blink 182 single.
The Thickets rip through their tunes with noisy precision, the instruments and vocals providing a tight mix of crunchy punk stabs and pop licks. Bouncy drums back energetic guitar-lines, carrying song after song into the realm of outstanding Foo Fighters-esque rock’n’roll. Toren Atkinson’s vocals climb from a dark growl into mischievous punk sing-alongs, and he invests the absurd lyrics (replete with They Might Be Giants whimsy) with just the right degree of earnesty. The Thickets are aware of the silliness of their project – the liner notes include an illustrated short story, and the CD’s got some interactive video-game features – but they revel in it to the point that the listener feels s/he can laugh along with them. Rather than singing mopey songs for the dumped, the Thickets opt to play anthemic tunes to space calamities (“20 Minutes of Oxygen”) or rock out in incomprehensible German (“Dies ist unverschamtheit”). As a result, this potentially embarassing experiment is transformed into a fun, utterly listenable delight, and a perfect antidote to the everyday greyness of life on planet Earth. Outstanding.