ABOUT ACID STINGS
Eternal long-haired losers who also have some of the best tunes this semi-legendary band has only released 6 albums in its long existence but each of them is a bonafide classic.The ASTRONAUTS 2nd album ALL DONE BY MIRRORS judged by those who heard it as among the best albums of all time was a stunning collection of explosive pop songs and traditional folk ballads recorded at a time when all their gigs were with anarchist punk bands.Their 5th album IN DEFENCE OF COMPASSION experimented with ambient house music years before other conventional bands even thought of doing so.
With so many excellent songs (many never recorded) it is probably the ASTRONAUTS enthusiasm for drugs and music over career and changing fashions which has stopped them becoming as well known as they should be.
Inspired by the UK punk explosion Mark Astronaut formed the band with a few friends in 1977 and began playing local gigs in their hometown of Welwyn Garden City.By 1979 The Astronauts were regularly appearing at free festivals and gigs in London organised by a hippy collective known as Fuck Off Records and from these began a close friendship with London punk bands Zounds and the Mob.That year the first Astronauts ep was released on local label Bugle Records and musically it reflected the hippie drug culture combined with the energy of punk.'All Night Party' still sounds like the paranoid nightmare it did back then.The record established the Astronauts on the local gig scene among the non mainstram hippie/punk/biker crowd.Also in 1979 an ep was released under the assumed name of RESTRICTED HOURS on the Stevenage Rock Against Racism label.'Getting Things Done' attacked the political apathy of smalltown life while 'Still Living Out The Carcrash' was musically a typically nightmarish theme.
By 1980 gigs throughout England with Zounds had won over an army of fans and the 'Pranksters In Revolt' ep sold all its copies within weeks.Musically the 4 songs were not as adventurous as the first ep although the lyrics were as incisive as ever.Like many great bands from the postpunk era the Astronauts were completely ignored by the UK music press which then as now was only interested in anything trendy,fashionable or middle class.Local fanzine Zero began to champion the band as did the local newspapers.
'Peter Pan Hits The Suburbs' was released in 1981 to widespread acclaim.Incredibly it received great reviews in virtually all the UK music press.The typical Astronauts audience at the time was largely hardcore punks attracted by the energetic gigs and a handful of hippies so the album was something of a surprise.Full of heartfelt folk ballads and featuring legendary jazz saxophonist Lol Coxhill the album was not what fans had expected but appealed to a different audience.The contradiction of heavy chaotic punk performances and structured melodic alternative pop/folk/ambient songs continues to this day.
Throughout 1982-1985 there were hundreds of gigs with the many anarcho punk bands of the era.'All Done By Mirrors' (1983) found the Astronauts at the top of their game. Bursting with tunes and melodies which would have been at home in the mainstream music charts and bristling with indignation the album remained unknown beyond their core fans .'Soon' featured great songs but was let down by lifeless production while 'Seedy Side Of Paul' combined a scathing indictment of the 1980s attitudes of greed with some truly wonderful songs.By 1986 Mark was fed up with constant gigs and decided to slow down.Astronauts songs were always socially aware and 'In Defence Of Compassion' had the usual great tunes but an underlying bleakness .By contrast the 'Constitution/Please Don't Come Around Tonight' 7" was an upbeat pop punk gem.
In 1991-92 the Astronauts recorded their finest album for Acid Stings.For once it captured the heaviness of their live sound but due to instability within the band and lack of cash the album has yet to be released.Despite this the Astronauts can still be found playing gigs in forgotten parts of London and Welwyn Garden City.
Robin Basak 2000
The Otters play faster heavier versions of Astronauts songs.They are Mark Astronaut on vocals with 4 collaborators from various local bands.Live they perform a refreshing,incendiary and blistering noise with plenty of melodies and unexpected riffs.They blew me away when I saw them in summer 2004 - catch them if you get the chance.
2011The Astronauts are experiencing a new creative peak with the lineup now consisting entirely of the dynamic powerhouse that is The Otters. As such they have recently played some of the tightest most exhilarating performances ever.
Newer Astronauts songs have the tunes,energy and urgency of all their best work .
Baby Sings Folksongs from the LP 'Peter Pan Hits The Suburbs' (1981)
'Midsummer Lullaby' from the album Peter Pan Hits The Suburbs (1981)
'Gold At The Top' from the album It's All Done By Mirrors (1983)
'New Dixieland Blues' from the album It's All Done By Mirrors (1983)
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To see artwork from these records view the galleryThe Astronauts ep 1979 (Bugle)
Restricted Hours ep 1979 (Stevenage RAR)
The Night 1979 (Really Weird Comp)
Pranksters In Revolt ep 1980 (Bugle)
Peter Pan Hits The Suburbs LP 1981 (Bugle)
Only Fools & Optimists cassette album 1982 (All The Madmen)
Its All Done By Mirrors LP 1983 (All The Madmen)
Soon LP 1986 (All The Madmen)
Seedy Side Of The Astronauts LP 1987 (All The Madmen)
In Defence Of Compassion LP 1989 (AcidStings)
Constitution 7" 1991 (Acid Stings)
Upfront And Sideways LP (Acid Stings) recorded 1990-91 - awaiting release
Peter Pan/All Done By Mirrors CD 1994 (Lazy Dog)
Baby Sings Folksongs 7" 1995 (Farce)
You're All Weird CD 2000 (Irregular)