Bad Astronaut

Houston: We Have a Drinking Problem

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In the time between the release of their debut EP, Acrophobe, and their first full-length, Houston: We Have a Drinking Problem, Bad Astronaut went from a three-piece to a seven-piece band. With the new lineup, the Santa Barbara group added layers of synthesizers, drum machines, and sequencers to their crunchy indie rock to make an American companion to Radiohead's The Bends or an alternate-universe follow-up to Grandaddy's Under the Western Freeway. Houston: We Have a Drinking Problem, though lacking the consistently awe-inspiring forward thinking of Radiohead and the rural grit of Grandaddy, is an impressive debut by any standard. While staying true to their pop-punk roots (Cape's Lagwagon, for example) on tracks like "Single," Bad Astronaut redefines the scope of the genre, much like the Anniversary, with spaced-out analog synth sounds. "Disarm" evokes Hunky Dory-era Bowie with melancholy acoustic guitar strumming and a jaunty piano-and-string bit, "Solar Sister" is a Posies cover, and "Our Greatest Year," complete with harmonica from John Popper of Blues Traveler, goes from subtle, shimmering folk to an all-out space rock epic. It's not a perfect record, but Bad Astronaut has managed to cross early-'70s Bowie with Jimmy Eat World, and that's no small feat.

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