Bad Astronaut - Houston: We Have a Drinking Problem (Cover Artwork)

Bad Astronaut

Houston: We Have a Drinking Problem (2002)

Honest Don's

This is the second release from this studio project band on Honest Don's records. The first being the "Acrophobe" EP which came out over a year ago. I call this band a studio project because they have never actually performed together live, although its varied members have certainly racked up the miles in their respective original bands.

Fronting Bad Astronaut is Joey Cape, most recognizable as the frontman of Lagwagon and to a lesser degree as the rhythm guitarist of Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. Also amongst the band's rotating lineup are Marko from Sugarcult (also ex Ataris), Derrick Plourde who was Lagwagon's original drummer, and Angus Cooke who is more commonly known as the owner of Santa Barbara's Orange Whip studios and also as the producer of bands such as the Ataris. The album also features a handful of guest musicians such as a female background singer and even Blues Traveler's harmonica prodigy John Popper.

The material itself really does not sound all that similar to what you might hear from the members' other bands. Obviously, Joey's distinctive voice will identify him immediately but it brings on a somewhat somber and poignant vibe when removed from the ferocity of Lagwagon's music. There are some chord progressions and melodies akin to stuff heard in that particular Fat Wreck Chords band, but they have been significantly toned down with the prevalence of acoustic guitars and keyboards.

It is no secret that Joey is a big fan of Elliott Smith's songwriting. Bad Astronaut even covered his song "Needle in the Hay" for its debut EP. On this sophomore album the band has adopted even more of an Elliott Smith approach with layered pianos, synthesizers, multiple vocal harmonies and unplugged instrumentation. Almost all of the semi-punk leanings of the first EP have been abandoned in favor of a more organic almost folky feel.

While I am fairly certain Bad Astronaut will only remain a venue for its members to release material not suitable for their other bands, it would be nice to see the guys convene on stage for at least a short tour.