ALIEN STADIUM

 

Only two humans have ever set foot inside the Alien Stadium.


 


Only two Earth men have heard the brain-mangling bass and cloud-parting melodies that play through its celestial speaker stacks. They’re the only ones to have visited its plentiful badly stocked bar concessions and looked back at the spinning Earth. And they’re the only people to have ever seen the stadium’s anticlimactic headline act – a simple drunken man from Mars backed only by a beatbox, clutching a huge bag of astro-strength lager.


 


Now, those men – Steve Mason and Martin Duffy – have returned to their adopted hometown of Brighton to relay their fantastical tale to the beat of the two musical forms they know best – rock’n’roll and acid house. Collected together on a joyous, righteous, semi-paranoid, fully weaponized concept mini-album, the duo’s first recordings are due for release as Livin’ In Elizabethan Times on Double Six (just in time for Christmas).


 


Wrapped in a sleeve depicting the duo looking as if they’ve just walked out of a time travel jumble sale and named as a nod to modern day serfdom, Livin’ In Elizabethan Times is something all too rare in 2017 – a record that actually sounds like it was fun to make. Unforced and out on a limb, it’s clearly come together through a mutual sense of humour and a collective need to vent. Each artist brings half a lifetime or more of hard won experience to the record - Steve from the Beta Band through King Biscuit Time to his rightly lauded solo releases; Martin, from the teenager who drove Felt’s gloriously autumnal instrumental album Train Above The City before becoming the musical backbone of Primal Scream for the best part of the last three decades. 


 


Said mini-album comes with one hell of a backstory - a tale best left for the duo themselves to explain…  


 


Steve Mason: “The songs on the album are in a specific order; they tell a story that we are characters in. This is for the Humans is us deciding to send a message into space which is essentially ‘We’ve fucked it up down here; could anyone up there come down and give us a hand, we’re struggling a bit’. The Visitation is when they come down and their judgement is not good. They don’t want anything to do with us, they don’t like us and all they really wish is harm on us. All the human beings are gathered in this field waiting for them to arrive. They come out and open fire on everyone, but me and him escape. So then we build our own ship to go up and have a look at what’s going on out there.”


 


Martin Duffy: “You go up there expecting them to be more spiritually advanced than us but really they’re much worse. It’s like all the bad things about us as a race times a million. And they’re total pissheads. Except they’ve got laser guns instead of Uzis.”


 


Steve: “There’s a guy who comes down in the Visitations called Ang-gog-nu. The lyrics to Titanic Dance have him as ‘A simple drunken man from Mars, he’s had a few on every star/galactic tramping in your face/must reach further if you’re looking for the higher race’.”


 


Martin: “The first track we wrote was This Is For The Humans. From there we wondered where we could go. Then the idea came about everything being a massive galactic disappointment. This idea of this vast majestic universe and it’s just a drunk alien with access to huge amounts of artillery. We think he’s an enlightened being but he’s just a tramp. Just like us.”


 


Steve: “Titanic Dance is us turning up at the dance hall at the end of the universe and deciding when they arrive, we’ll  be so pissed and so rowdy, just turning round (flicking Vs) going ‘Fuuuuuck Off!’ And then, when the Titanic goes down, we get washed up on a beach and it goes all Planet of the Apes… “


 


If this all sounds like the excited ramblings of two men on the wrong side of several pints, then Livin’ In Elizabethan Times probably isn’t the record for you.


 


If, on the other hand, it sounds like two of the country’s most consistently interesting musicians describing an all-too-rare-in-this-day-and-age work of visionary pop music, then you’re in luck as the mini-album is total joy from start to finish.  


 


Musically, they journey from the pensive acoustic stomp of the opener (This One’s For The Humans) through to a glimmering, horn heavy four/four shuffle that acts as the backdrop the human race’s sentencing on the Visitations. The Moon is Not Your Friend offers a moment of respite, sounding something like the Beach Boys playing space shanties on the edge of the Sea of Tranquillity, while Titanic Dance (the only track with any outside influence, having been given a toughened up mix by Brendan Lynch) fires off into the outer reaches with one almightily demented Balearic dancefloor earthquake.


 


It’s a record that effortlessly echoes key points from each musician’s back catalogue – from the Three EPs to Weatherall’s Nine O’Clock Drop take on Airstream; No Style to Screamadelica; Felt and Steve’s recent solo releases – yet it never gets bogged down in the past. Instead, it creates its own world and comes with its own left-of-centre internal logic.


 


Steve: “One of the reasons why we started – music for pleasure, for us. The writer and thinker Graham Hancock puts it as trying to ‘begin again like children’.”


 


Martin: “Making music free from the encumberment of a record contract, of radio play or touring schedules. We started it, and we found ourselves laughing so we carried on. When we first went in the studio in my house, we really wanted to get back the ability to play just for fun. Being more childlike in an approach, playing for the sake of playing rather than some end goal.” 


 


Sounds like the best approach possible approach for dealing with the inevitable End Times. See you at the Stadium. Ang-gog-nu is on in half an hour.