Today's highlighted Madison-based musical act is The Earthling Invasion.
Launching their campaign on Madison just over two years ago, The Earthling Invasion continues apace with its appropriately spacey pop music. More specifically, this five-piece band has birthed a quirky and catchy sound by breeding early '80s power pop with a rare species of electro-glam rock. As they hit the stage on a fairly rare basis, this invasion looks to be continuing well under the standard radar. If not, though, take heed extra-terrestrials.
These invaders number five, each of them generally operating from their saucers on a first-name (only) basis. The band consists of Jamie (on vocals, guitar, synthesizer), Lee (on the harmonica, keyboards, synthesizer), Mark (on bass and keyboards), Mike (on drums), and Howard (on the trumpet). "Don't worry," they promise, "this line-up won't ever be changing because we all signed 200 year long contracts with Satan." One element that gives the group much of its unexpected charm is its brass component, at least according to one fan of their live show.
Madison music blogger (and Isthmus contributor) Kiki Schueler reviewed on of The Earthling Invasion's early shows back in the autumn of 2004. She described the group as a "pleasant surprise," one easily worth more than one look. She wrote:
If I had seen Earthling Invasion six months ago (unlikely since this was only their third show ever) I would have told you that I had never heard anything like them. However, back in August I saw a band called The Neins from Vancouver. There is only the slightest chance that Earthling Invasion has ever heard The Neins (they opened for AC Newman, the genius behind the New Pornographers, at the High Noon) and zero chance of the reverse, but the similarities between them are amazing. Both bands feature similar instrumentation, acoustic guitar, keyboards, drums, bass and trumpet. OK, that isn't that unusual a line-up, but the songs were startlingly similar also. Both deal with, um, unusual subject matter. Sample lyric from The Neins, "I have a friend, she likes squid, I don't know what I did to deserve a friend like that," compare with EI "I don't know why I have a drill bit in my head."
And much like when I saw The Neins, I was completely knocked out by Earthling Invasion's quirky charm. Lead singer and guitarist Jamie Warren has a storyteller voice, a goofy smile and a great ear for lyrics. "Hunger" contained the great line "Nobody cries when a vampire dies." "I Forgot," those two little words that will get you out of anything, had punchlines like "to bring your sister home." The alien-sounding instrumental "You Wanna Come Floating With Me" led into "Creature" (as in "she really is a") whose long intro featured dual keyboards from Warren and Lee Peters. While Warren's supernatural lyrics accounted for half the band's intrigue, the rest came from Peters and Howard Sweet on trumpet, an instrument which never fails to charm me. I will be on the look-out for future Earthling Invasion shows, and they should be on the look-out for The Neins because it will feel like looking in a mirror.
Over their two years of invasion, the band has self-released two albums; they are titled 3 Legged Lass and Year of the Saucer. Nine of their original songs from these releases are available for listening at theearthlinginvasion.com. They are: "Drill-Bit," "Some Cloudy Sunday," "Wanna Come Floating with Me?," "10 Days Til My Head Falls Off," "Radio-Controlled," "I Forgot," "Blow-Up," "The Hunger," and "Candy in My Mouth." There are three other songs available on their MySpace page, including "Negative Geotropism," "Back to the Sea," and "Year of the Monkey." Also, a selection of their gig posters are available online.
There aren't many chances to catch the invasion performing live, having performed less than a dozen shows over the last two years. There's a chance to catch them before this year ends, though, as the quintet gears up for a show tonight. The Earthling Invasion will be playing with Nick Joseph and Fire Falls at the High Noon Saloon on Monday, Dec. 18. There's more discussion about the show on TDPF, including an invitation to "put your space face close to mine." Take us to your leader, Major Thom.
This is the latest featured entry from the Madison Music Project, an online database of Madison-area musicians. Please register or update your current profile on the project for consideration in these highlights.