There's not one damned original thing about Spacehog. The ambisexual clothing is lifted straight from the glam section of the history books, as is most of the music--sort of operatic Mott the Hoople metal with a pogo beat--and the shtick is punk even if the execution is pure new wave. But like they say in Oasis, originality has nothing to do with how good you actually are. Resident Alien is such an unabashed pastiche that this band doesn't sound the same one song to the next; originality is highly overrated in rock and roll, especially when the real challenge is in seeing how you can manipulate the cliches until they sound like your cliches.
Such was the operating procedure of Urge Overkill, and it made them and a success for a while: Saturation was the perfect '70s homage done up '90s-style, attitude topped with enough cream cheese to choke a deli regular. But you can only appropriate so far without the actual talent to back it up, which is why Urge Overkill ultimately faded faster than David Clyde and why Oasis throws nothing but pure heat: One band thought the shtick was the art, while the other realized you could actually be the Beatles when you had chops to match the arrogance.
Spacehog is a curious enough band: Its members, including brothers Royston (lead vocals, bass, songwriting) and Antony Langdon (guitar, vocals), were all born in England, yet the band formed in New York City after they were living over here and working the jobs of the, right, resident alien. And so the influences are a bit screwed up: On "Cruel to be Kind" (no relation to Nick Lowe's song of the same name), Royston comes on like Axl Rose fronting T. Rex; "Never Coming Down (Part II)" swipes as much from the Ramones as from Gary Glitter; "To Be a Millionaire" sounds like "Cecilia" sung in British accents. The rest of Resident Alien outdoes Pulp when it comes to crafty songwriting, goes Elastica one step further for new-wave disposability, keeps pace with Blur for retro accents, overtakes Tripping Daisy when it comes to pure psychedelic-rock atmospherics, and lapses behind only Oasis when it comes to a coherent packaging of historical nonsense and sensibility.
Spacehog performs May 4 at the Galaxy Club. Tracy Bonham opens.
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