Saturday, February 11, 2006

Ghosts of American Astronauts (1988) – The Mekons

(Part Three of The Moon In The Mind’s Eye tetralogy)

“Ghosts of American Astronauts” is an alluring, well-disguised commentary on the values by which America defines its heroes. The grandeur of the first landing on the moon allowed America a diversion from the ongoing Vietnam War. In 1969, America regarded astronauts in general as heroes and held them in high regard, so much so that, even in death, they would remain in the public’s collective memory. The Nixon administration received the glory for the mission’s success, despite its responsibility for the quagmire in Vietnam. On the other hand, U.S. soldiers fighting in Vietnam were vilified as baby killers for whom there was no heroes’ welcome upon their return.

For all we know, this cinematic event could have been filmed on a soundstage. [In its closing moments, My Favorites “Absolute Zero” alludes to this notion as well.] What good is landing on the moon if the freedoms of America are taken for granted or abused?: “A flag flying free in a vacuum.” Warning of the precarious missions into space to appease mankind’s brazenness, Sally Timms alludes to the inherent dangers of space travel, as if the fate of Icarus were inevitable. Indeed, two years earlier the Space Shuttle Challenger had disintegrated 73 seconds into its flight.

Timms’ ethereal lead and double-tracked background vocals sedately bathe in lush reverb. Generous compression imparts a dreamlike sheen to the entire mix. Occasionally, a phase shifter causes the heavens above to swirl. Beguiling and insidious, “Ghosts” lulls even as it criticizes a large contingent of its audience—or at least their parents’ generation.

  • Listen to "Ghosts of American Astronauts" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
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