Cosmonauts – Star 69
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It’s an idea that’s toyed with throughout Star 69, the band’s fifth studio album and follow-up to 2016’s A-OK!. “Love my little bubble / love my little scene,” they sing over the drug-laden slide guitar and back beat of the Odelay-like opener “Crystal,” the sneer in the delivery hinting that the love may be double-edged. Then there’s the entirety of “Medio Litro,” an ode to conversations we’ve all had out on smoking patios at varying stages of that night’s bad decision-making. Lines like “We’ll go to the party / If we can find parking” and “Get another manager / and another publicist / Call me when you get this / Make it on the guest list” are delivered with the perfect detachment of a band that is well-acquainted with the game, and still has no intention of playing by the rules.
“I was only 19 years old when Derek and I released the first Cosmonauts record,” explains Ahmadi, “So pretty much everything I’ve learned as an adult, I learned from being in a band.”
“Yeah, clearly we haven’t learned much,” Cowart adds, “I guess I’ve learned that hype and trends come and go, but great songs last forever.” After a tumultuous year of lineup changes and support team upheavals, Ahmadi and Cowart found themselves together again, a combative and “fuck you” spirit pushing them to record their best album yet, or as Cowart puts it, “This album is recorded so much better, hits harder, and doesn’t sacrifice any excitement.”
While Burger has grown to stand for, and sound like, any number of things, there’s always been more to Cosmonauts than lo-fi-surf and half-baked garage-pop. Razor-blade riffs and relentless walls of sound (see the audio assault of “Seven Sisters” and the fire-alarm guitars and self-destruction of the massive “Wicked City (Outer Space)”) shatter out the shambolic jangle of their psych-rock peers with power and intention. The punch-in-you-gut intensity comes courtesy of the duo’s mission to go back to basics. “It was really important that Star 69 was recorded as live as possible,” explains Ahmadi. “We needed to record the album in a more immediate and demanding environment. I think in the age of Ableton, the energy and urgency of a live band really can’t be overstated.”
Psych, punk, shoegaze, and always something else, the Cosmonauts sound is Spaceman 3, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Jesus and Mary Chain through a 75-and-sunny, strip-mall lens–it’s UK by way of So-Cal, the lucid lyrics and heat-shimmer guitars so indicative of the now-familiar sound they created. Star 69 finds them at the height of those powers, the trip or two around the block injecting the album with a confidence and completeness that gives tossed-off lines like “I wish I was high or dead, or something” (the gorgeous and unexpected “Heart Of Texas”) a kind of hungover, squinty-eyed poetry. Everything from almost-love songs (“The Gold Line”) and odes to untimely death (“Suburban Hearts”) are given the usual yawn and stretch treatment–a deceptive casualness that underpins the level-up songwriting and intricate musicality of the band’s strongest effort yet.
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