Live Music Reviews

The Aliens @ Zodiac, Oxford

10 November 2006


Having only formed in April of this year, The Aliens walked off with the Green Man Festival thanks to front man Gordon Anderson’s unhinged and maniacal bounding about on stage. Sadly, the stage at the Oxford Zodiac is considerably smaller than that at Green Man, leading to an over-exuberant Anderson’s flailing limbs threatening to destroy all his band’s equipment. Thankfully, for the beleaguered roadie more than anyone else, the worst it got was an amplifier knocked over.

The Aliens are three ex-members of the Beta Band: Robin Jones, John Maclean, and of course, Anderson who left that band after writing what became their signature tune, Dry The Rain, due to extreme mental problems resulting in institutionalisation. He seems a little more adjusted now, even with unintelligible stage banter in his Scottish drawl and stage-tantrums to the thudding beat and rhythms of his extraordinary new band.

Aided by a guitarist and a bass player, The Aliens produce a noise that makes them the most exciting thing to hit the UK live circuit since the Super Furry Animals, and the fact they seem to be garnering a following through the traditional means of touring to buggery and relying on word of mouth, is a refreshing dose of old ways proving effective in this depressing anyone-can-be-a-star age of MySpace and the like.

What The Aliens have is a remarkable fusion of psychedelic rock with an innate sense of skewed funk that is personified by Anderson. On the decks, Maclean provides mixes and samples to soar over the raunchy and raw layers of the rest of the band. The result is, that with sprawling songs like Ionas (Look For Space) that end with mantras like “the universe is not so far,” we have Fife’s very own Grateful Dead. Perhaps The Byrds after electroshock treatment. Traffic at their improvisational peak. Not, as one friend I was with said, “a bad Happy Mondays tribute band.” Nonsense.

Released in September, single The Happy Song is a joyous few minutes of, well, happiness, but The Aliens’ showstopper is the unfathomably funky Robot Man. Not a foot went untapped in the Zodiac and soon a bunch of middle-aged men had gathered in front of stage frolicking in tribute to the great Gordon.

This man looks permanently confused in his stage acrobatics, leading one crowd member to shout ‘he’s on drugs’. Gordon: ‘I don’t do drugs, I’m just high on music, man’. The rest of the room joined him when he strapped on his guitar and launched into a space-rock solo of epic proportions on Setting Sun. New song Glover, another cacophonous mixture of heaviness and swirling flower-rock, only adds to the growing anticipation of their debut LP, out in March next year.

Chatting to them afterwards they seem to be a rare thing – a newly formed band remaining grounded (because of Anderson’s fragility, because they’re all in their thirties) in the face of the fact that if there is any justice (and there usually is), The Aliens will become one of the UK’s best exports in many years.


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More on The Aliens
Interview – The Aliens
The Aliens @ ULU, London
The Aliens – Astronomy For Dogs
The Aliens @ Zodiac, Oxford