They Came From The Stars I Saw Them released their debut album What Are We Doing Here? nearly five years ago, and unbeknownst to most they quickly recorded their second album right after that. As the story goes, the recording was lost, found, converted from a nearly-impossible format, forgotten, remembered, pulled apart, re-mixed, then left on a shelf again before being found again and worked over some more. So while the music on Vs. Reality was recorded quite some time ago, it hasn't been completely inactive since that time (although it has spent large periods just sitting).
At any rate, the six track, fifty minute album is finally being released to the world, and while it sounds like a bit of a mess at times, it's a big, sloppy, fun mess that's hard not to get into in a lot of places. At the time of their first release, I compared them to the Beta Band, and here the comparison is no long apt at all, as the group has veered far off into left-field with a batch of unpredictable songs that touch on everything from cosmic disco funk to kooky deconstructed brit pop. "An Angels Help" opens things simply with some cheesy synth horn melodies, but before long some spoken word vocals come in with a full rhythm section, and spastic sound effect blasts (including everything from cathedral bells to cowbell snippets) while sounds just keep on piling on top of one another until everything finally collapses.
"Speak N Spell" progresses similarly, with spatial effects draping overlapping vocals as horns, sputtering drums, electronics blowouts and horns all swirl together into an undulating song that eschews any real standard construction. Really, that's par for the course with the group. Nothing is put together like a normal pop song might be, and just about the time you think the group is going to settle into something slightly more normal, they turn things on their head and shoot off in some other direction. The excellent "It's Always Boomtime, Part One" might be one of the only exceptions, with discernible verses and choruses that are relentless in their energy for five and a half minutes.
Taking their collage-pop to the Nth degree is the closing track of "Astro National Anthem," which clocks in at over twenty-five minutes and is equal to the length of the five songs that came before it. Tucked in amongst the more spacey moments of the song are some of the best moments of the entire release, with a sort of warm kraut rock section touched with violin and flute that works wonders and a swirling, almost marching-band style blowout latter portion that also finds them heading into trip-out land. Considering this one sat around moldering for so long, it's a testament to the group that it still sounds pretty darn fresh today. With them back together and playing some shows (and making plans for another new album next year), they might very well knock their next one silly.