Reality is strange.
What started out as a fictional band in a meta-textual addition to a concept album has now spilled out into an even richer and more bafflingly complete meta-text – with a full album and tour of their own.
The Moonlandingz first made their appearance on ‘Johnny Rocket, Narcissist and Music Machine… I’m Your Biggest Fan’ – a concept album by the avant-garde electro trio the Eccentrionic Research Council. The record was a dark, sweeping, spoken word-driven narrative of a band, The Moonlandingz, their Ziggy Stardust knockoff frontman Johnny Rocket, and the band’s deranged stalker.
To flesh out this fictional band the ERC brought in Lias Saoudi and Saul Adamczewski of Fat White Family. At some point Sean Ono Lennon hopped aboard as a producer, pushing the Moonlandingz out of fiction and into reality. Or almost reality, since the band still seems like they definitely shouldn’t be real.
As origin stories go, this one is a bit of a mouthful, but the Moonlandingz have now evolved into something far more than a simple joke or conceptual project. Or maybe not. The album itself offered only further bewilderment.
‘Interplanetary Class Classics’ opens up with Vessels, a punkish number driven by a big rumbling bassline. It rises up from the same primal roots as Fat White Family, all sleazy energy and depraved lyrics. At first it seems like The Moonlandingz could just be the Fat Whites under a new name and (yet another) lineup change. Even the psychedelic saxophone that drops in halfway through the song has popped up in their live shows before.
Sweet Saturn Mine and Black Hans keeps this mood going. Saoudi is in similar lyrical territory as his pervious group, gleefully laying bare feelings of utter sickness and debasement. “I could be a vessel for your shame” he growls “I’m down on my knees begging baby do the same.”
But as the record progresses, a new energy emerges. Every track gets a little stranger, sampling genre elements from glam, krautrock, disco and blending them into a chaotic, psychedelic swirl of a record. ‘Interplanetary Class Classics’ flows from silly parody to avant-garde art project. One minute everything is silly and impossible to take seriously. Seconds later we’re back to violent brutality.
IDS employs a heavily distorted horror movie-esque vocal line, a hefty industrial pulse, and the sound of marching boots as the ingredients of a disco tune. It should perhaps be a stretch, but somehow it fits. It’s a little scary how close such a messed up and weird piece of music comes to sounding like pure pop.
On The Rabies are Back the band degrades into full on cartoon mode – as Saoudi croons a chorus of “Baby!/ The Rabies Are Back” over a cutsy little synth melody. Meanwhile, Glory Hole soars into a pure evil old-school synth riff and yet retains a riotously sing-able chorus (“Every man’s got a glory hole” repeated over and over). The record has by this point abandoned any kind of direction it appeared to have at the outset. Opposing musical genres are forced into bed together and pressured into getting it on.
The climax comes on the final track, as none other than Yoko Ono lends a howling guest vocal to the feverish and trippy This Cities Undone. The 84-year-old crackles and roars like the grand high witch who’s manipulated this occult mess of a record into life.
After all, ‘Interplanetary Class Classics’ seems cobbled together of parts that shouldn’t quite fit, of elements that aren’t particularly in tune with anything around hem, of ideas so tonally discordant than, even as you’re listening to it, it still doesn’t sound like music that’s actually real.
And again, maybe it isn’t. The Moonlandingz seems less like a rock band descended from outer space and more like visitors from an alternate dimension, where reality is similar to ours but for a few uncanny differences. Cats chase dogs, rains falls up, and pop music is a hallucinogenic drug. To glimpse this inter-dimensional aberration is horror, but it’s impossible to turn away.
‘Interplanetary Class Classics’ is out now.