The Asteroids -- Life on a Asteroid / Instant Knowledge
"Life on a Asteroid" / "Instant Knowledge"
Snail Records, 1978
There's a lively bit of discussion over at Killed By Death Records (which is where I downloaded the 7") about whether or not The Asteroids were some session musicians putting together a quirky faux punk side project or a real band. Regardless, the A-side, even if it is ersatz punk, is absolutely one of the best songs I have heard in a long, long while. I mean, if it really is a parody of new-wavy punk, its so spot-on a spoof that you can't really be sure it is a joke. Seriously, I love so much about this song that I'm going to have to give you a list:
1. The band's blatant disregard for the rules of English grammar on the A-side makes their indulgence in the time-honored (and thoroughly pretentious) tradition of naming songs after one's band that much funnier.
2. The completely un-punk use of hippie-speak like "I don't dig the human race" and "I don't want this useless jive / that Earthman needs to stay alive." Evidentially the Asteroids didn't get the memo about how much punks hate hippies.
3. The music is, in all seriousness, perfect. From the opening ten seconds of radio-signals-in-space guitar twang and the insanely polished drums backing it up to the rockabilly-ish riff that blasts the song open, "Life on a Asteroid" is pure aural bliss.
4. The vocals are awesome. It's like Richard Hell visited Motown or something. Then there's the whispered "life on a asteroid" backing vocals setting up this call-and-response thing with the lead singer.
5. The lyrics are hilarious. In addition to the aforementioned hippie language, you've got what sounds like an attempt to sound "punk," but by whose standards I don't know. Opening with "[b]aby, I wanna live on a asteroid," the singer initially seems to express some fondness for the auditor. But then, the singer informs us, "life on a asteroid is gonna be good, it's gonna be great" because we, the listeners, "won't be there." In fact, he "can't wait" so he plans to "steal a rocketship" to take "a one-way trip" away from squares like us. As he leaves, though, he gets one final barb in at people who, unlike him, are not from outer space, telling us he doesn't need the "useless jive" we require to live. Then, in response to what can only be the auditor's expression of joining the alien in space, the singer shouts "Hey, punk! Get your own asteroid!" leaving us bereft. Seriously, the silly pseudo-misanthropy is awesome.
The B-side, "Instant Knowledge," is a snide bit of straight-up new wave with digitized vocals that sound as futuristic as the tin-foil suits in a lousy sci-fi B-movie look. Again, it almost sounds like an older group of people making fun of the simplistic conventions of a younger generation's musical fad... It's not bad, though. The Asteroids could certainly play, joke or not.
Sobriquet Grade: 85 (B). This is an average. The A-side deserves to be legendary.