Luna is the follow-up to The Aliens' critically-acclaimed 2007 debut Astronomy For Dogs. It's almost impossible to write about The Aliens (who formed out of the ashes of the Beta Band) without without referring in some way to singer/songwriter Gordon Anderson's mental troubles. On starting to write this, I agonised for a while about whether to make any references to his well-documented problems. Should I let the music speak for itself on its own terms? What relevance do his battles with his inner demons have for his music?
After a few listens of Luna, its pretty obvious that these battles are pretty inseperable from the music. Anderson, it seems, even encourages us to place his music in that context by referring pretty explicitly to other famously similarly troubled musical souls – what's Smoggy Bog if not a big nod to Syd Barrett? And Theremin could have been a track from Brian Wilson's Smile. The vocal refrain of Billy Jack – 'Tell me when your gonna rest with your mind' is another giveaway But wheras Astronomy for Dogs was a joyus, life-enhancing and uplifting album, Luna goes in an altogether different, albeit still psychedelic, direction. It's tempting to say that its all together too introspective and naval-gazing to be as big a success as the band's first platter.
Whatever the impact of mental illness on its creation, it's a patchy piece of work – a mish mash of fragments and fillers. Tracks such as Dove Returning and Everyone both have the kernels of wonderful, beautiful songs, but they don't seem to have been fully developed, they plod away rather than soaring majestically. The overblown prog-pomp hilarity of Bobby's Song and Billy Jack seem wonderful on a first listen (both at them come it at over ten minutes), but they just aren't strong enough tracks to demand a repeated listen. There are loads of enchanting moments on this album that make you smile, rock out or boogie, but they just aren't consistent enough when you are brought back done by average tracks like Daffodils. The only track that really seems fully formed and ready for external consumption, and in so doing capturing the dizzy heights of the first album is Magic Man.
Anyone who has seen The Aliens' shambolically entertaining live show knows how good they can be and for that reason its probably worth persisting with the album – it might suddenly kick in.. Luna at the moment however, leaves me feeling a little sad. It's certainly got more of a downbeat, contemplative tone that its predecessor, but that's not the reason. It's the underlying feeling that Luna had the potential to be as good, if not better than Astronomy For Dogs. It's that unrealised potential that means Luna is a missed opportunity for The Aliens to produce a truly brilliant piece of work.