Spray - Children of a Laser God

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:8 Release Date:2017-05-19

Children of a Laser God, aside from being an excellent play on words, is the name of the second re-released Spray album in their Introduction to Spray series. Originally out in 2006, four years after the duo of Jenny McLaren and John "Ricardo Autobahn" Matthews released their debut, this set shows the pair maturing and broadening their musical range quite a bit, while staying grounded in their synth pop roots. The pair's humorous lyrical approach is better here as well.

Disc 1 gets off to a roaring start with the utterly ridiculous genius of 'He Came with the Frame', a love song to the generic guy found in picture frames when they're still in the store. It's the usual big synth and manic beats typical of many Spray songs, but the lyrics really shine here, managing to distill pop song "love" into its purest form: infatuation based solely on appearance. It's followed up by 'Anthem', a high energy, er, anthem to being a bum. The chorus 'don't wanna get a proper job' repeated over and over again always makes me giggle. 'Pretend Girlfriend' is sort of the flip side of infatuation with a photo: an imaginary long-term relationship. If it were released today, you'd have to roll your eyes at such an obvious concept, but realizing it originally came out more than a decade ago means it was actually rather prescient. 'Kiss Like in the Movies' is a paean to the perfection of fake kisses, and with its pitter-pattering synth rolls, is one of the strongest songs musically.

The set isn't perfect, as it does get a bit bogged down through the middle, with a series of nondescript tracks that all seem to blend together. None of them are bad, necessarily, but they lack the pep and personality of some of the group's wittier songs, like the hilariously titled 'You Eat One Lousy Foot and You're a Cannibal', which should be self-explanatory. That song drops the synths for the most part and comes off like a Smiths or even a Bangles song with its oh-so-sincere acoustic guitar and piano. 'The Dangerous Sports Club' also features some amazing lyrics, such as 'I should have listened to my friend's advice: never trust a man wearing leather shorts and a plastic dressing gown'. Sage wisdom right there.

Disc 2, as with their other re-release, is a mishmash of remixes and unreleased material. But this mishmash is extremely good, perhaps even better than the original album. It opens with the title track, confusing considering there was no such track on the original album. 'Drowsy' brings to mind the experimentalism of a group like Yello with its bombastic horns and sense of adventure, and settles into a comfortable groove populated by goofy samples and retro-futurism.

There are even some moments of unabashed techno, like 'Cheesebox (It's All in the Drums)', which pounds frantically with pulsing keys straight off a 1990s dance floor. And the 'Melody & Mezzo 12" Speed Bit Mix' of 'Anthem' lives up to its name, flying along at breakneck pace and replacing the original's guitars with even more synths.

Some of the true high points of the second disc are the covers. The cover of Alice Cooper's 'Poison' manages to deftly mimic its serious tone, transform it into a synth pop ballad, and gently mock hair metal as a whole, all at the same time. It's pretty phenomenal. So too, the cover of Glen Campbell's 'The Highwayman' is a real delight. Soothing pads swim past with synths splashing throughout, as McLaren belts out her most passionate singing. I prefer to take this one at face value, because I have such a soft spot for the 1985 cover performed by Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson.

It's hard to explain why exactly, but this sophomore set just comes together better than the group's first album. They feel more confident, more sure of themselves, and more willing to experiment here and there to add variety, flavor, and texture to the flow. As with the other release, this is an absolutely huge slab of music, thirty-six tracks clocking in at well over two hours, but it keeps things fresh and interesting for the duration. For anyone who's on the fence, this is definitely the one to start with.

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