The Bright Light Social Hour have been rocking Texas in some shape or form since 2002. The members met as college students at Southwestern University. They released a few EPs followed by a self-titled debut album that garnered numerous local awards, including Band of the Year at the SXSW Austin Awards. On the back of momentum from their debut they ended up playing over 400 shows across North America.
Their much-anticipated second album, Space Is Still The Place was released on March 10th. It’s a concept album of sorts that depicts their native southern United States in the future, inspired by the economic downturn of 2008.
The album’s first single, Infinite Cities, is an extremely impressive piece of music - one of the best alternative songs of the year so far. Unlike the rest of the album, it shines in its simplicity. It has a ferocious chorus, and its direct approach, featuring an epic guitar hook that will stay in your head for days on end, is reminiscent of the eloquent stylings of Mutemath.
The Moon begins much like a Pink Floyd song, with a heart-beat, albeit a fast one. It begins slowly, but at about the minute-and-a-half mark it picks up with some guitar flashes and a much quicker beat, but continues with fuzzy vocals and without any traditional song structure.
Aperture starts with a bang but then fades off with a Mars Volta-esque breakdown that ruins any momentum the song had. Sometimes, this harsh attempt to be different wears heavy on the ear drums.
Track two, Slipstream, begins with a tantalizing bass line. It prominently features a blues-style guitar solo, that comes in and out of the song. If Stevie Ray Vaughn had a space opera it would sound like this. Of course, Bright Light Social Hour wants to remind you that they are weird, and the song buzzes out with a weird sound tantamount to a spaceship hovering.
Space Is Still The Place has grand ambitions, and there are certainly some highlights. But it takes the spacious ideas of Meddle-era Pink Floyd and tries to meld them within the framework of modern rock. It comes off, however, as a semi-talented band who dabbled a little bit too much into psychedelic drugs. It’s a cautionary tale to any would-be rocker: don’t take the brown acid, and don’t try to lift off to space unless you back it up with an exceptional concept and exemplary songwriting.