In High Fidelity, the character played by John Cusack at one point announces to his staff that he’ll sell ten copies of the Beta Band’s The Three E.P.’s and slides the CD into the player. It’s a fun scene to make fun of if you’re a record-store clerk, but one thing is true: “Dry the Rain,” the album’s lead track, is catchy as fuck. Gordon Anderson, the genius behind that track, left the band shortly after penning that song. But in the wake of the Beta Band split, John Maclean and Robin Jones hooked up with Anderson again and have dropped a record that rivals the early Beta Band/Anderson stuff for catchiness. After a few years of being institutionalized for mental illness, Anderson’s songwriting talent is on record again, and this album is a strong testament to his skill.
Rather than mining the Stones’ Exile on Main Street like just about every other guitar band these days, this album mainly rehashes ’60s psychedelia, with the biggest nod being to S.F. Sorrow-era Pretty Things. Opener “Setting Sun” and “I Am the Unknown” are veritably S.F. Sorrow by numbers, only updated. “Tomorrow” recalls the La’s and their particular version of ’60s throwback melody and structure (the Hollies or the Zombies, anyone?). Toss in a little Spacemen 3/Spiritualized noodling and we’re off. On “Rox,” the members switch up their era and influence with a little Madchester bagginess that sounds like a homage to the Happy Mondays, complete with Sean Ryder-like diction and a caterwauling female vocal. And even if lyrics aren’t the Aliens’ strong point here (“I am the robot man” and “We are the Aliens” bubble up in numerous songs), it’s obvious the members paid much attention to psychedelic melodies.