by Kyle Cochrun
Aliens are among us! I’m talking the outer-space variety, with protruding black globules for eyeballs and hairless gray/green epidermides, shade depending on which sci-fi program you’re tuned into.
If you’re searching out conviction beyond the ramblings of your neighborhood UFO nut in tinfoil headwear, listen to Akron’s Beyonderers, a surf-rock band of believers who, according to their Bandcamp page, “write music as dictated by a crystal amulet discovered in an attic.”
Their latest record, Disclosure, is stuffed with alien conspiracy babble and rollicking instrumentals that cut sharper than an intergalactic warship’s annihilation ray.
After a UFO pundit opens the record in a spoken-word snippet, the Beyonderers step on stage, tearing through an uptempo, riff-laden hot-rod jam that hauls ass across Route 66, past cracked canyon bluffs and derelict service stations. The song’s title, “The 37th Parallel,” is named after Ben Mezrich’s UFO conspiracy book, which itself is named after a stretch of the western United States where UFO sightings and cattle mutilations abound.
“I used to read tons of books about UFOs, conspiracy theories and paranormal phenomenon in high school,” says guitarist Dave Rich, “and at some point it seemed like a perfect fit to meld these tunes to those eerie vibes.”
Still, the music holds up without all the conspiracy-talk snippets cutting between songs. “A Brief History of the US Military Psychic Warfare Program” features some brutal kit-bashing. The guitars simultaneously drip reverb in the tradition of classic surf-rock and lacerate the ear drums.
“Ultra-Terrestrial” soundtracks a montage of missile attacks, with lots of explosions, mushroom clouds and counter-strikes. “Landing at Socorro” mutates the conventional crest-and-dip formula of surf-rock instrumentals with time-signature changes that both disorient and pull listeners in like a rip-tide.
“Our current records fall somewhere between Dick Dale and ’80s thrash,” says Rich. “I’ve heard us described as ‘surf thrash,’ and I’d say that’s accurate.”
Yes, the band’s sound puts one in mind of surf-rock virtuoso Dick Dale. But the Beyonderers are mining their own nook of the long-established genre, unwilling to tread water in their purveyors’ surf spots. Thrash away they do, but the band retains a knack for hooky guitar melodies. The brightest of these spackle the album closer, “Kecksburg,” into pure beach-party pop.
Disclosure doesn’t conjure space travel with electronic whooshes and kitschy synth bleeps; it’s music fascinated by UFOs as a staple of Americana. This is rock primitivism of the pre-psychedelic era, just guitars and drums in timely blasts. Instead of exploring the stars, The Beyonderers jam on the desert floor in front of the Area 51 warning sign: “US Air Force Installation… Photography Of This Area Is Prohibited.”
The music’s prevailing vision is a surreal anachronism: a rock band playing to a throng of UFO fanatics, tinfoil hats and all, huddled amongst their hot rods under a blistering blue sky streaked with silver saucers. Hopefully they beam down more party cups.
Kyle Cochrun is a writer from Akron, Ohio. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: By Joe Palmisano. Used with permission from The Beyonderers.