What do you get when three guys barely into their 20s are infused with a true love for old school electro-pop, analog synths, and pre-Fragile Yes? The oddly-named The Planet The are a refreshingly nostalgic group who crank out concise tunes with surgical precision and every tongue planted firmly in its respective cheek. The core of the band’s sound is keyboardist Dave Huebner’s passion for vintage keyboards, with a Korg Mono/Poly, Farfisa organ, and a Nord [Modular rackmount] driven by a Yamaha KX5 portable keyboard. Guitarist Charlie Salas-Humara's vocals are largely of the vocoded variety. Rounding out the this Portland, Oregon-based group is drummer/percussionist Chip Francis Matze III. Besides the obvious influences, these ears detect others still, by way of Gary Numan, Yellow Magic Orchestra, and Kraftwerk.
Ten tracks long, Physical Angel still manages to clock in under twenty-eight minutes—a few tracks don’t even cross the two-minute mark! A clever ploy that practically guarantees a repeat spin, this makes for consecutive listens in just under an hour’s time. TPT could have easily padded out the disc with demos and live versions, but they wisely chose not to. On to the music: the one-minute, fifty-second title track discloses the band’s penchant for quirky melodies, infectious beats and a lean, live, barebones sound. Organ, electronic percussion, and aptly unintelligible vocals rule the roost. “Man Called Wife” is an early 70s retro-icon; Charlie's vox are adequately Kobaian—Dave duals the guitar part on a Mono/Poly bass patch throughout most of the track. “Arty Movie” will come to be known as a minor classic if TPT breaks a larger audience—you can already hear the crowd tapping along with the heavy TR bass drum patch, chanting along with Charlie: I get so nervous at night, I get so nervous at night, I get so nervous so nervous nervous at night… Very infectious.
“Toledo Vader” is straight-up mid-era DEVO, with acoustic drumming and locomotive rhythms. “Uno Violence” returns to proggy grooves with phat analog textures, Lifeson/Peart strutting, and Jon Anderson-like yodelling. Demonstrating how they slide comfortably between several motifs, “Side Pipe” evokes a raw Howe/White/Kaye jam, while “High School Hands” is structurally similar, adding a quieter interlude, and more ballsy analog bass soloing on KX5. The only track to exceed six minutes, “...Hands” morphs into an all-out rocker before it wraps. “Marc Artery” dusts the drum machine back off for more wholesome proto-synthpop goodness Gary Numan would be proud of.
The Planet The may have timed its debut just right: the guys will set out shortly on a
six-week, limited American tour. Their sound sets them apart from the momentary novelty of The White Stripes and other “garage” acts. There is no other band, which may or may not be poised to appeal to a crossover alternative/progressive underground market, that currently blends the influences they do (or so it seems). They certainly don’t lack for good melodies!