Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Cassette experiment day 21 - Thomas Dolby 'Astronauts & Heretics'

I had a fun conversation with some colleagues yesterday about the concept of new technology ‘early adopters’. One of the reasons I found it amusing was that, unknown to them, less than 24 hours earlier I’d submitted what turned out to be a successful bid for a portable Sony MiniDisc recorder on Ebay.
Purchasing outdated technology like a MiniDisc player may seem like an unusual idea at the best of times, but it seems downright unfaithful when right in the middle of the biggest (and probably only!) cassette experiment ever conducted. But I’ve always wanted one, and now that it’s possible to get a good one for a few quid I thought ‘why not?’ I now eagerly await the postman’s arrival.
This introduction is my somewhat clunky way of letting you know that our cassette experiment album today is by someone who is notoriously famous for being an early adopter of technology – Thomas Dolby with his 1992 release, ‘Astronauts & Heretics’.
On this album our Tom amasses a number of very talented musicians (luminaries, even) including Eddi Reader, Eddie Van Halen, Ofra Haza, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Leland Sklar and Budgie. The production quality, as you would expect from Thomas Dolby, is fantastic. So with all of these ingredients you’d expect it to be a very good album wouldn’t you? Unfortunately, it’s not. With the exception of ‘Eastern Bloc’ (a sequel of sorts to ‘Europa and the Pirate Twins’) it’s just too… bland. In some ways ‘Eastern Bloc’ acts as a reminder of how good Dolby’s first album, ‘The Golden Age of Wireless’ was, and by comparison, how far away from that standard ‘Astronauts & Heretics’ is.
Of course, in 1992, even though CDs were well established, there was only one choice if you liked a track on an album – you had to buy the whole thing. There was no democratic process of voting for your favourites by only downloading the track or tracks that you loved.
The lowest point, ‘Silk Pyjamas’ is about a woman who wears silk pyjamas (you’d guessed that bit), Dr. Martens and pith helmet (you probably hadn’t guessed that bit). Sadly it’s as bad as it sounds – sorry Thomas!
Label – Virgin
Year - 1992
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