Man Or Astro-Man?
There is an undeniable connection between the South and occurrences of extra-terrestrial form. From other worldly jazz guru Sun Ra, to German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, Alabamahas always had more than an ample share of connections to outer space. Such is the case with Man or Astro-Man?, who arrived in a small college town in Alabama some years ago. In order to integrate into human society, they would have to downplay their true identities and take on aliases, most conveniently in the form as students. While studying industrial design and film, the group began formulating a mode in which to learn more about their new earthly environment.
Soon the group became immensely attracted to pop culture and decided that the cliché of a being a rock band would provide a perfect vehicle in which to traverse the globe and further their research. Full integration into Earth society would thus commence for what was soon to be known to the world as Man or Astro-Man?
A discovery of records long stashed away at various dilapidated thrift stores inAlabama lead the entities of Man or Astro-Man? to the scratched-up sounds of Link Wray, The Ventures, Dick Dale, Duane Eddy, The Marketts, The Safaris, and other instrumental guitar oriented music of the late fifties and early sixties. Instrumental music provided a great escape from the sappy, pretentious lyrical drivel emanating from the (then newly christened) 'alternative' FM radio. At the same time, offbeat stage set ups and designs by Kraftwerk, The Spotniks, The Residents, Devo, Sun Ra, and The B-52s had a great impact on the rapidly developing troupe.
Around this embryonic time, Man or Astro-Man played innumerable shows in the Southeast with a scene of bands that included Southern Culture on the Skids, The Woggles, Hillbilly Frankenstein, The Subsonics, and The Flat Duo Jets. Developing around the liberating resurgence of the no bullshit sounds of surf and garage music, MOAM soon caught the attention of Estrus Records owner Dave Crider. He was taken with the band's teenage caffeine-induced energy and punkish take on instrumental surf music. Crider ended up releasing their debut full-length simply entitled, 'Is it...Man or Astro-Man?' (1993). The Estrus Records aesthetic that revolved around the art and packaging concepts of designer Art Chantry fit perfectly with the Man or Astro-Man? modus operandi. 'Destroy All Astro-Men' (1994) and 'Project Infinity' (1995), and several EP's were released by Estrus.
Faced with licensing issues inEurope, MOAM embarked on a search for a new record label. From their recent shows with The Jesus Lizard and the Mekons, the band was alerted to Touch and Go Records and their artist-friendly business practices. Upon visiting the fine earth people of Touch and Go, the band decided it would indeed be the best possible label on which to release all future albums.
'Experiment Zero' (1996) was Man or Astro-Man's debut for Touch and Go. Recorded in three days with engineer Steve Albini at the Zero Return studio in Alabama, it stands tall among the great modern instrumental guitar records. After its release, the band began to evolve at a greater velocity than ever before. They morphed by extending their use of samples, computer programming, homemade instruments, electronic gadgetry, tape splicing, and other bits of random archaic technology. Both the '1000X' EP (1997) and 'Made From Technetium' (1997) were darker steps into the futuristic soundtrack music realm.
Over time, Man or Astro-Man? has done countless bits of film and soundtrack work including compositions for Nickelodeon and The Cartoon Network(SpaceGhostCoastto Coast and The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron). Members of Man or Astro-Man? have started record labels - Warm Electronic Recordings; recording studios - Zero Return; bio-diesel fuel centers -vegenergy.com; and have written for numerous publications including Chunklet, CMJ, and The Melody Maker.
The Jacuzzi Boys’ practice space is like most any other—crammed with gear along with one of the guys’ record collections. But their band room happens to be located in a trailer tucked just inside Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on gorgeous Key Biscayne, FL. Just a few feet from their amps: tropical paradise. This is an area home to weird animals and buttonwood trees, located on an island just outside of Miami. “Miami is not known for producing many good bands,” bassist Danny Gonzalez concedes. “So, quite frequently we get asked, ‘would you ever consider moving?’ Our answer is always, ‘No!’ This is where our friends and family are from. Miami is such a part of the Jacuzzi Boys, as important as any musical influence.”
The Jacuzzi Boys are guitarist/vocalist Gabriel Alcala, drummer Diego Monasterios, and bassist Danny Gonzalez, three dudes from South Florida, bright as neon and fun as hell. After forming the band in 2007 and accruing a handful of 45s, the group released the LP No Seasons on Florida’s Dying (located in nearby Orlando, FL) in 2009. Now, in 2011, we have Glazin’ – their second full-length, and the first for Hardly Art.
For Glazin’, the group traveled to Key Club Studios in Benton Harbor, MI where they spent twelve full days recording and mixing. The Jacuzzi Boys used this as an opportunity to dig deeper into the production of each song. “If the first record was the Everglades, the follow-up is Dadeland Mall,” says Alcala. This is also true sonically – while No Seasons was a primal wallop, Glazin’ has the slight sheen of a studio environment. Moving beyond the beauty and harshness inherent in a life spent within a single climate, Glazin’ instead offers a take on the culture that surrounds that environment: girls, cruising, air conditioning, and “raspberry feelings.”
Crisp hand claps, tambourine shake, zip gun guitar and sneaky lazer keys are all here, alongside rolling bass lines, the sharp-snap drums of the unshakable Jacuzzi Boys’ sound, and Alcala’s cool, breezy vocals winding through it all. The trio offers up 10 new tracks of outré power pop, occasionally roaming into surf territory (“Lebras and Zebras”) as well as some heavy metallic glitter (“Silver Sphere”). Despite having been recorded in Michigan, nearly every track on Glazin’ circles back to Miami through love ditties about crushing and glazin’, big anthems dedicated to waiting on a bus, and miniature neon glam rock opuses about a death dream and erections.
While it conjures images both sweet and sexual, those looking for specific meaning within the term “glazin’” will be disappointed. When pressed for details, the band confirmed that there is no concrete definition for the word. Alcala made it up, and the band instantly knew what he meant by it. It could be a state of mind, it could be a way of life, it could be about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. However it is meant to be taken, with any luck, Glazin’ will soon become synonymous with Miami: “The Gun Club and X are so L.A., and Television is so New York,” says Gonzalez. “It’s such a part of what makes them who they are, you know? I always wanted to have a band like that, birthed from its environment.”