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)
Blues for a Sceptic (1985)
The Birds (1985)
Following Orders (1985)
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