Press Start

Review: Press Start by Space Weirdo

Press Start
Press Start

Artist: Space Weirdo
Album: Press Start
Release Date: March 7, 2013
Website: http://www.spaceweirdo.com

Originally I had criticized Cosmonaut for being too short. But that was the palest of criticism of the album. My reason for that criticism was that was the only thing I could find, other than the License choice. I didn’t feel that releasing a review that only criticized the License was fair to the artists, the Creative Commons community, or to anyone reading the review. So, I added the length criticism as a bit of light humor, but it didn’t come off as I had intended it.

In fact it seems as if they (might) have taken me a little too literally, and come back with a massive 2 CD release with 27 new tracks: over 1 hour and 45 minutes of music. And this time, the new album has been released under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike license.

Okay, so I don’t really believe that the two CD release is due to my review. The few measly words I scribbled on my website couldn’t have carried that much weight. Instead, I believe they have been developing much of this material over the past several years, and just chose to get it all down in the studio.

Enough fiddling around… What do I think of the MUSIC? After all that is what’s important, right?

First, listening to this massive a release of new material in a single sitting might seem contrary to today’s iPod/iPhone/iPad-toting song-at-a-time generation. But there is so _much_ to like about this release that it is worth the time to listen to it. And, honestly, if you are only listening to single songs, you will miss much of the artistry that goes into an incredibly constructed work such as this. Listening to a single track is like reading a chapter out of a book. It may be an excellent chapter, and even stand on it’s own, but it’s so much better when you read the chapters that go around it.

The first CD kicks off with a track that starts with a carnival barker monologue intriguing the listener with what might be coming in the future, only to be reminded that this is a Space Weirdo release and nothing can be taken too seriously by the sound of a jaw-harp (sounding like a spring popping – just like in a cartoon) just
after the monologue which then leads into a jazzy walking bass riff with vibes until the guitar and drums open into the full riff that is the main part of the song. Of course with this kind of a set up, it only makes sense that the song is titled Arlecchina.

Oh, wait, you don’t know who Arlecchina is? Honestly, I didn’t either, I had to go and look it up. Arlecchina is the alternate persona of Columbina, a stock character from the Commedia dell’Arte. As Columbina, she is Harlequin’s mistress. As Arlecchina she is often joined with Arlecchino in adventure and love, and is typically portrayed as a comedic character. And so, Space Weirdo have woven an opening track set in a carnival like setting with a comedic central character derived from the Commedia dell’Arte. Even when these guys are writing humor, they give you something to think about. Or not. The song was completely enjoyable before I got curious enough to look up
Arlecchina. (And, in case you are curious: Columbina, Understanding Italy: Commedia dell’Arte, People Like Me: Commedia dell’Arte, and TV Tropes: Commedia dell’Arte)

And that sets the tone for the whole release very well. Space Weirdo is a group that on one level takes their art and craft very seriously, but at the same time use a lot of wit, humor and sarcasm along the way.
And it works well. There is only one song on this release that I didn’t find enjoyable, more about that later. That’s pretty amazing for this amount of music.

There are some tracks that stick in my memory a bit more than others: Arlecchina, Let’s Play, Dinosaurs, Log On, 8 Bit, Android FriendRhyme & Reason, Rundfunk, Houston, Conspiracy, The Show, Real, Crazy & Left-handed, Hollow Monkey, You Know Better, Zeit and Game Over.

Briefly, why I like a few of these tracks:

  • Crazy & Left-handed is one of those ballads where the message is that there are people and things that just don’t fit, things that cannot be shared. It’s the admission that you know when things won’t end well, even if you do want them to be.
  • Log On is a way of viewing how life has been transformed in the Internet age.
  • Dinosaurs What if these ancient beings had known what would happen to their remains in our modern society?
  • Rundfunk is an homage to Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream, with guitars! Truely Space Weirdo style.
  • You Know Better there is an element of this song that reminds me of Chumbawamba. You have to hear it to understand.
  • Rhyme & Reason to me sounds like someone that is suffering from writers block, but there are several possible interpretations for this song. 

I said there was one song I didn’t like: Everybody’s Waiting. It’s a song about those dark, inner feelings one might have towards an unlikable person, to the point of being despised. While often Space Weirdo’s lyrics can be cynical or sarcastic, this song goes well past that line. I can see where there might be cases where people might have those kinds of feelings. For example a prisoner might feel that way towards their jailer, or people who are oppressed might feel that way towards their leader / oppressor.

But, that’s where the problem is in the form of the lyrics: they are written in second person. By writing them in second person they put the listener in the role of the jailer or the oppressive leader. That is a role that made me uncomfortable, and I don’t think most listeners will feel comfortable being cast in.
So, with that said, this is a solid release. Nearly three times as many tracks as there were on Cosmonaut. All of it is enjoyable (barring one track), and a lot of really stand-out tracks. And, this time Space Weirdo have chosen to release this massive album under a Non-Commercial, Attribution, Share Alike license. Which I bring up for a different reason this time: Space Weirdo are strong advocates of the Creative Commons, which is all about sharing. Which means, for those of us that listen to the music they have shared with us and like it, we should be sharing with them.

So, take the time to visit http://www.spaceweirdo.com and listen to the new release, and even download it. Better, if you like it enough to download it, visit their shop and pick up something. Share with Space Weirdo as much as they have shared this music with you.

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