Album Cover
Man or Astro-Man?
A Spectrum of Infinite Scale
Touch & Go
September 05, 2000


This was where Man or Astro-Man? made it happen. Surf is not a genre whose appeal is much held without lyrics, and Man or Astro-Man?, chock full of gimmick but with nowhere to put it, was just not keeping anyone's (my) interest. In this fashion, they released several albums of just your average science-fiction instrumental surf - likable but unlovable, gloriously goofy but blandly by the books - but here, from nowhere, they bloomed into a surf "For Respect"-era Caballero that contained the one thing they'd been missing: rawk. A gimmick is nothing without goods to back it up, and here, Man or Astro-Man? show that they realize that. They've learned to play for interesting and for rocking, not just for novel.

But by no means is the gimmick gone. The novel-then-irritating sci-fi flick segments are less frequent, and where they do pop up they're in the background, but the entire album drips with gimmick. The difference is that here, the band doesn't let the gimmick become the music, but instead, the music and the gimmick can exist mutually exclusively of each other. The tracklist features such scientific knee-slappers as "Multivariational Stimuli of Subturgid Foci Covering Crossevaluative Techniques for Cognative Analysis of Hypersignificant Graph Peaks Following Those Intersubjective Modules Having Biodegradable Seepage", or plays on Pink Floyd track titles, or a song whose name is a picture of a trapezoid. And, the band members' names are still Coco the Electronic Monkey Wizard and Birdstuff, with newcomers Trace Reading and Blazar the Probe Handler.

"Curious Constructs etc." is the highest point of the album - the minimal reverb-filled guitars are excellent, and the shifts from interesting ambience to full-fledged scifisurfrawk would make a brave man weep. Directly thereafter, "Um Espectro Sem Escala" is a fun blast of Shellac-esque melodic guitar punk with ridiculously proficient drum work bringing up the rear. "A Simple Text File" captures the simple yet charming rhythm of a dot matrix printer in action. "Trapezoid" is surf-punk, and it's as cool as such a subgenre should be. And "Within One Universe There Are Millions" brings us back to the sincere surf revivalist leanings of Is It .. Man or Astro-Man?, but without the sheen of blandness.

And so, despite the band's musical evolution, they are still as fun to listen to as they should have been from the start. Don't try to convince me otherwise: A Spectrum of Infinite Scale is the best alien surf jam ever put to disc.

Noah Jackson

Track List

  1. Pathway to the Infinite
  2. Song of the Two-Mile Linear Particle Accelerator - Stanford University, Stanford, California
  3. Preperation Clont
  4. Curious Constructs of Stem-like Devices Which Now Prepare Themselves to Be Thought Of as Fingers
  5. Um Espectro Sem Escala
  6. Many Pieces of Large Fuzzy Mammals Gathered Together at a Rave and Schmoozing With a Brick
  7. Trapezoid
  8. Very Subtle Elevators
  9. Within One Universe There Are Millions
  10. Spectrograph Reading of the Varying Phantom Frequencies of Chronic, Incurable Tinnitus
  11. A Simple Text File
  12. Obligatory Part Two Song In Which There is No Presently Existing Part One, Nor the Plans to Make One
  13. Multivariational Stimuli of Subturgid Foci Covering Cross-evaluative Techniques for Cognative Analysis of Hypersignificant Graph Peaks Following Those Intersubjective Molecules Having Biodegradable Seepage