Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Definitely Not the Surf Band

The driving train-like rhythm that opens this album transports me straight back to the nineteen eighties.

Squatted apartments in Stamford Hill, Stoke Newington, Hackney: dark despairing dens occupied by lurchers, disparate people, paranoia, nihilism and hate.

Mark Astronaut had an ability to crystallize those times; a true Hogarth in sound, revealing a vivid and authentic snapshot of that bleak, cynical, destructive period.

He had an incredibly keen eye; an acute power of observation, and a Pepys-like mode of expression: witty, cynical, self-deprecating, often sublime and often deeply provocative.

Through his objectivity and an outsider's stance and view, he was able to reveal the truth, dismissing romantic ideas, whether to do with ideology or action, and really tell it as it was; capturing and realizing the genuine feelings and attitudes of Thatcher's bastard children

Mark Astronaut, like the greatest of artists, 'reported back'; but it's the way he 'reported back' that really makes him stand out.

Provocative as the lyrics are, The Astronauts really adopted an apolitical position.
Anarchists and Marxists may have adopted the band, but in no way did the band propagandize.

It is in The Astronauts' sound that the link can readily be made between punk rock and folk music; for urban folk is what The Astronauts created, and with much folk music, poetry plays a big part.

Maybe you've never heard The Astronauts.
And maybe you think this is all rhetoric based on my own nostalgic view.
But honestly, Mark Astronaut was a genuine outsider poet, and his music and his band were definitely one of the more authentic sounds of the post punk period.
If you like music from this genre and period; music that attempted to be serious and provocative, then this is well worth having a listen to.

This album from 1986 is a great introduction to their music; it's also an album you never see (there are others, mainly the excellent Peter Pan Hits the Suburbs, available on other blogs).
Soon showcases new material (for 86) and repackages a couple of early 7" releases: The Astronauts e.p. from 79, and Pranksters in Revolt released in 1980.

Mark's voice is rather like that of Fairport's Dave Swarbrick (told you they had a folky flavour); the music is very punk on the early recordings (think The Mob or Subhumanz); but with the addition of a sax, the recordings from 85 sound a little like Inner City Unit, but more... what? Organic. Earthy, somehow.

If there is any interest in this album, I have more.
And I'd be really interested to hear your impressions or memories of this excellent band...

The Astronauts - Soon (1986)

Friends (1985)
Books (1985)
Blues for a Sceptic (1985)
The Birds (1985)
Following Orders (1985)
Survivors (1979)
All Night Party (1979)
Young Man's World (1980)
We Were Talking (1980)

Vinyl rip @256kbs
Be amazed by the view from outer space; get The Astronauts here


michaelDUSTdevil said...

well, after that description... how could i not!... Mxxx

Anonymous said...

I used to go and see these guys at the free gigs they'd do at places like Acklam Hall and Meanwhile Gardens, along with the Zounds, Ovni, Blank Space and Here & Now, when I was a student in London in '79.
I remember seeing the Astronauts once when they were just two guitarists and a drummer, and thinking "these guts are either complete idiots or geniuses!". Happy days!

roy rocket said...

Mark Astronaut was a little bit of both I think.
Caught them a few times, and was always staggered by the way Mark looked, which was always totally different to the previous time I saw him.
Medication can do weird things to the body!
But hey, Here & Now! There's a thought
Cheers, Roger.
Shanti, roy

BananaYogi said...

Mark Astronaut is still alive and well. He supported Daevid Allen's University of Errors at a gig in Hitchin, UK earlier this year.

roy rocket said...

Wow! That's great to hear.
Thanks for that. Uplifting.
Shanti, roy

Eddie said...

Not only is Mark still alive and well, he is still singing with another band called The Otters. Worth searching out if you liked Soon, because it's a similar sort of sound.

roy rocket said...

I found some!
Over on 'my little bubble' (see 'Blogs & stuff' on right).
Yes, Soon-ish.
Cheers Eddie, roy

Anonymous said...

The Astronauts are still very much alive and Mark's forever writing new material, still as important and relevant as ever. I play bass in the most recent line up (we were previously known as The Otters and decided to merge), if you can get us any gigs we'd probably be up for it.



Anonymous said...

Saw The Astronauts on 6th September 2014, seems was their penultimate gig as a band.

roy rocket said...

That's sad.
Not due to ill health I hope...?