Have you ever been around someone flapping their jaw about how serious art has to be about serious things and if you don’t get it, you’re just not serious about being a serious part of the solution, you serious part of the problem? Seriously, these people are a barrel of laughs at a party. Also? They are wrong. High art versus low art, silly versus serious, artistes vs charlatans: these false dichotomies are older than the first cave person whose cave paintings at Lascaux were called ‘pedantic’ by the village buzzkill.
By the by, I certainly hope you will enjoy the excellent debut full-length album from Lawrence, Kansas’s They Watch Us from the Moon, laden with the unwieldy yet apt title, Cosmic Chronicles, Act I: The Ascension. Given my surly preamble, I can hardly attempt to tell you how serious this six-piece takes their art, but by the bountiful evidence of the album’s rich sonic tapestry, ear-wormy songwriting, and playfully straight-faced sci fi storytelling, it is clear this is much-loved, much-labored over music.
They Watch Us from the Moon plays a warm (and mercifully sludge-less) style of doom, stretched and balmily stoned but also rippled with cosmic psychedelia. Though every aspect of the band’s music and performance is finely honed, the most immediate pleasure comes from the twin lead vocals of, ahem, Luna Nemeses and Nova 1001001. Their singing is velvet-brushed, often hovering in a burnished midrange that shows off how fluidly their close harmonies blend.
“Creeper A.D.” opens up the album’s second half with a sumptuous, oceanic glide, the lead guitar soloing in elegant, laconic Floydian weightlessness. Eventually it summons a heavy, blissed-out stoner groove that feels like SubRosa sitting in for a jam with Sleep’s The Sciences. Perhaps the finest thing about this excellent album is its flexibility: you can come to it because you want doom; you can come to it because you want psychedelics; you can come to it because you want a rich atmosphere; or you can come to it because you want gorgeous vocal harmonies.
Closing track “Return to Earth” makes the best use of the full, rolling bass tone, and the band introduces even more voices to its chorus. The second half of the song takes a particularly elegiac turn with an exceptional angelic vocal harmony, a nervy, slow-motion squirm of a guitar solo, and heroically restrained drumming that kisses the outside of the beat to keep everything from accelerating even as the vocals resonate more and more gloriously. I can’t pretend to have followed the story that the band is telling here, but if there’s an Act II on the horizon, I’m already strapped in for blast-off.