“Is that a penny whistle or a fucking flute?” is not a conversation I want to be having with myself when working on a review for literally anything, yet here I am. Meet Clem Darling and the Astronauts. They released an album called Mr. Peace Man, and I get to drown myself in what can only be described as a pool full of LSD while trying to understand what the fuck I just listened to.
Post-punk is an odd little beast at times, like any form of post anything. Clem Darling here attempts a very Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds kind of vibe while skinny dipping with The Beach Boys in a fashion I would imagine tips the scales on the term “disturbing.” Punky, yet implementing aspects of surf rock and odd that only lead to perplex unless you have a penchant for the particularly strange and unusual. Take the opening track “Responsibilities,” for example. Initial impressions kick out your garden variety off-key garage punk only to rip the carpet out from under you with a complete change of pace and a forced side of freaky fucking wind instruments and more pitchy singing. Follow that up with “Grants,” and you’ll start questioning what exactly somebody slipped in your scrambled eggs to have you listening to an unreleased vault of The Beach Boys (yes I know I’m beating this dead horse real hard) songs meant for Disney.
One could absolutely argue that I’m being overly harsh here and I would absolutely agree. The fact of the matter here is that there is some relatively complex song writing and bold attempts and style blending. Ultimately, all structural decisions made in the creation of this record outright confuse me, and that’s even inclusive of the choice of mixing and mastering here which left a residual taste of harshly blended vocal harmonies, dry treble heavy instruments and tones, and very abrasive garnishing from the ever surprising wind section.
Are you, the reader, still adamant that you dig the odder and “avantegarde” or “post” side of music? Then by all means, submerge yourself into the hallucinogenic adventure of whistles, jungle sounds (see “Waste,” for example), and vaguely punk remnant arrangements that is Clem Darling and The Astronauts and their shining release, Mr. Peace Man. I, however, have to go right back to my regularly scheduled programming of not fucking getting it.
Written by Jason Greenberg
*Edited by Dominic Abate