Last month, the mighty and hip Wenona showed me a film called "The American Astronaut". I was a little hesitant to watch a self-described "retro-futurist space-cowboy musical", but Wenona's got immaculate taste in film and a top-notch bullshit detector, so we gave it a shot.
As clunky a handle as "retro-futurist space-cowboy musical" may be, it's really the only one that comes close to the truth. But it does not do the film any justice in advertising just how friggin' cool it is. Desperate, dirty thugs con, barter, and double-cross their way through a world where the final frontier looks strikingly like the old western frontier - all while belting out some of the most gut-bustingly funny rock 'n' roll you've ever heard. It's a synthesis of song, genre parody, narrative whimsy, and dada humour that would make Frank Zappa twist his moustache with pride.
The musical motor of the film is writer/director Cory McAbee's band, the Billy Nayer Show. The BNS' core trio (McAbee, drummer Bobby Lurie, bassist Frank Swart) and a plethora of peripheral players have cranked out seven delirously raucous albums over the past decade, the most recent of which was 2004's Rabbit. Sure to delight anyone who dug the American Astronaut soundtrack, Rabbit is a concept album about bonin', and staggers from ranuchy barroom swagger to childish quirk. The cut I got the biggest kick from was the arena-sized anthem, "Everyone Got Laid". McAbee's brassy pipes breaking through the wall of monster distortion give the song a Neil Diamond-fronting-Black Sabbath kind of feel, but it's cocksure enough that, man, you can just taste the passion! Okay, so maybe with lyrics likening sex to "stirring macaroni", tasting the passion isn't such a good idea, but McAbee's combo of hedonism and sarcasm is a temptation worth giving into.