Every once in awhile, it is refreshing to take a look at albums not necessarily hot off the studio board. In the wake of the millennial musical haze that exists thanks to boy bands, in-your-face rappers, and be-bop girls who are too sexy for their own good, there is solace to be found simply by dusting off some of those great albums you forgot about. HUM’s You’d Prefer an Astronaut (released in April 1995) is one such a reprieve from the madness. The album is absolutely complete. With the lush vocal delivery of Matt Talbott, the sometimes chaotic/sometimes hypnotic guitars, and the sheer beauty of the lyrics themselves every song on the album is a keeper.
A particularly eerie song on the album is “Suicide Machine”. Talbott’s droning delivery drives home the melancholy and desperate feelings of love lost. Confused by what he feels love is supposed to be and what it actually has become, the speaker creates a sense of superficial beauty and dreams that exists in the suicide machine of love. Poetically, the lyrics could stand on their own: “Somewhere through a thousand blues, a dragonfly descends with just a whisper. I’m lonelier than God and all my wishes spin the fishes in the air and everyone a different shade of you. And to the left where up is down, now stands a zebra made of shapes of me in silver, and the sun.”
The most upbeat song on the collection has the most hardcore message. “I’d Like Your Hair Long” starts off with a slicing guitar intro and the innocent listener assumes it is going to be a fun feel good song. But after only a few lines, we realize this is no sweet love song. The person who has done the speaker wrong is now considered a waste of a song and a waste of the breath used to sing it. The biting bridge further drives home the feeling of pure disgust felt towards the horrible person.
The final song on You’d Prefer an Astronaut, entitled “Song of Farewell and Departure” captures the surreal experience of listening to HUM. The steady, mesmeric rhythm and somber guitars are ideal for this song about reflection at the end of a journey whether it be a relationship or life itself. The best line of the whole album is found in this song: “And so we land only to find we never left the ground”; this one line encapsulates so many different experiences.
Saving the best for last, the song “Stars” was the reason that many original HUM fans got hooked in the first place. The gentle song about suicide starts off with the memorable lines “She thinks she missed the train to Mars; she’s out back counting stars.” From there, we are taken on a sad but beautiful ride as the speaker discovers that the girl whom he thought would be waiting for him, holding daisies as usual, is now dead. This song sends chills down the sensitive listener’s spine.
Based out of Champaign, Illinois, HUM offers the perfect cd. Never is the listener compelled to skip a song because it is unpleasant to listen to. Rather, after only a few listens, one finds herself humming, whistling, and singing the songs because they are so striking. The cosmic theme that runs throughout is also a really cool detail to a really cool album. If you are unfamiliar with the band, give them a listen. Otherwise, this is a great time to get reacquainted with a fine cd.