Review: Man or Astro Man? 

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The question of Man or Astro-man? remains unresolved.

The surf rock group landed Thursday at Radio Radio for their signature high-energy amalgam of frenetic new wave, astronaut jumpsuits and transmissions from outer space (in the form of B-movie sound bites).

Lead guitarist and infrequent vocalist Star Crunch (Earth names not used) fired off the rapid-fire tremolos that signify the genre. That allowed the rest of the band to flail about the small stage and engage the tightly packed audience. Bassist Coco the Electronic Monkey Wizard riffed between songs and donned an astronaut’s helmet to run around the club at one point. Avona Nova decided to play her rhythm guitar in the middle of the crowd multiple times.

All the hallmarks that made Man or Astro-man? an underground legend in the ‘90s were there. Especially so a theremin showdown that once again involved spectators and heightened the show’s science fiction themes. It may have been less futuristic than nostalgic for some in attendance. But sprinkled in amongst the classics was some newer material, offering hope the long-answered Man or Astro-man? shall remain so.

The Pack A.D. offered a much more stripped-down set, but was no less engaging musically.

The Vancouver-based duo are pure pop pleasure that, save for some effects pedals, is shorn to its barest elements both conceptually and in performance. That’s because the raw spirit that’s always defined their work has never left the basement from which it was born. Guitarist Becky Black and drummer Maya Miller effortlessly pounced from disco swing to cymbal-crashing blues sinew.

Opener Wray, a trio from Birmingham, Ala., kept their heads down while playing skeletal song structures drenched in reverb and serrated gauze. While it may echo sounds of goth’s past, it’s still remindful of why it became such an influence. Particularly so when it’s delivered this unpretentiously and workmanlike.

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