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You'd Prefer an Astronaut

Hum

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Album Review

Having partially created what many felt was a template for the Smashing Pumpkins to become successful, Hum found itself in an unenviable spot when the lead single from its major-label debut, "Stars," became a hit precisely because of that sound. There's certainly a similar connection at points, what with some fierce, chopping feedback and crisp drum slams, but the lyrical portrait is less solipsistic and somehow the whole song feels more inspirational and dreamy for it. Like the song itself, then, You'd Prefer an Astronaut is, for all the similar love of psychedelic volume in service of emotion, its own beast, most specifically because of the singing. Talbott's lead vocals are much more restrained than Billy Corgan's aggro screams, bearing more immediate comparison with, say, Mark Kozelek of the Red House Painters or Stephen Immerwahr of Codeine. Sounding crushed and regretful amid the surge and flow of the music, his singing generally feels very approachable, reflective rather than declarative. When he does let loose with screaming here and there, it's nowhere near as strained as Corgan, something which a lot of people might be terribly happy about. As for the music, the quartet can work up a thick head of steam without cloning Corgan or James Iha's metallic rampage, just that little more dreamier and muted around the corners. Songs like "The Pod" and "I'd Like Your Hair Long" certainly recall the chunkier punch of such Pumpkins numbers as "I Am One" and "Cherub Rock," but, again, they easily stand on their own. Elsewhere, the slow building shimmer and then release of "Why I Like the Robins" is very much the band's own individual creations, as is the soft, hurt drawl on "The Very Old Man" and the downbeat start of "I Hate It Too," for all things fire up towards the end.

Biography

Formed: 1989 in Champaign-Urbana, IL

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Endless feedback, a heavenly drone, and an obsession with science and outer space: these three elements perhaps most define the beautiful style that has become the trademark of the unmatchable Hum. Despite a career marked with slight commercial successes, most obviously their 1996 radio hit...
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You'd Prefer an Astronaut, Hum
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