The word "retro" can be a very subjective thing. One person's brand new and shiny is another's yesterday. For me, Asylums are a retro band, creating a sound that I first heard in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Listening closely to their sound, I hear bands like Ride, The Charlatans, Sonic Youth, early Soul Asylum and others in their sound. I’m not saying that Asylums have been influenced by these bands, but they share a sound palate with them at the very least. There is also a slice of Power Pop to their tone, one which I have only heard with Teenage Fanclub (especially on “Homeowners Guilt”). Based on the above, I could easily be very lazy here. I could make cliched assumptions about the band, but I won't do that. I like to give each act or artist an equal chance, which they fully deserve. Each new band is trying to make their own way into the world, creating a new noise for themselves. So, even if they sound like the bands from my youth, I’ve got to put that pre-judgemental away and look at this as a new piece of art.
Alien Human Emotions is the follow up to Killer Brain Waves. It's an ultra-heavy indie album, one which is kicking against the pricks of the chart bothers. With this sound, they are probably one of the only ways to rebel in popular music these days, by sounding slightly heavy in your chosen field. Songs like “When We Wake Up” and “Napalm Bubblegum” are kick ass anthems for the jaded, they are not satisfied with how things are turning out. There is a punk attitude with indie sensibilities, a winning combination in my book. They can also slow things down, such as on the politically motivated “Homeowners Guilt” or the potent “Millennials” which sounds heavy and beautiful in places. Also, ending track “The Company You Keep” is a brilliant piece, ending the album on a calming note and showing an understand of track ordering beyond their years.
The more I've listened to Alien Human Emotions, the further under the surface I've tried to go. The main thing I keep coming back to with this record is the style of Asylums. For me, the greatest strength of Alien Human Emotions could possibly be their biggest weakness as well. To be frank, I am hearing a lot of heavy hitters on this record, a lot of talent as well. The songs on Alien Human Emotions are songs that other artists would kill for. These are songs which are easy on the ear, with a little fuzz around the edges. That's great and really speaks to me. Yet there is also nothing here that creates conflict or another other than established parameters. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but it makes me think about the future of Asylums. It makes me wonder if (and this is an if) they ever released an album of just slower number, or changed style slightly, would their audience be onboard?
However, that is just me looking for a negative and trying to be balanced with this review a little. Overall though, Alien Human Emotions is a blast for me, it’s one of those albums which sounds like the angry youth trying to make their own new noise. Yes, for me it sounds like I've heard it before, but that does not mean it's not new for them. I like the fact it's fuzzy, I like the noise, I like their style. If Asylums do make a third album, I will be reviewing it straight away with eager interest. Alien Human Emotions is a colourful piece of Indie/Punk/Power Pop. With this record, they should have people jump around like loons at their show, as well as make grumpy old farts like myself reminisce as well.
8 out of ten – Oh, now you have my attention, as well as my time, money and heart
Top track – When We Wake Up