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The Asteroid #4 - An Amazing Dream

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Artist: The Asteroid #4

Album: An Amazing Dream

Label: Rainbow Quartz

Review date: Feb. 9, 2007

Philadelphia's Asteroid #4 captured the attention of psych-pop listeners back in 1998 with their debut full length, Introducing...The Asteroid #4, which offered a successful blend of highly memorable pop melodies with the right amount of mood-altering atmospherics. Songs like the single "What a Sorry Way to Go" and "Honey Bee" melded swirling guitars, keyboards, and even sitar into a mixture that, rather shockingly, didn't feel overdone. 2001's King Richard's Collectibles was a different beast, a garage rock collection drawing more from ’60s rock than ’60s psych. Now, with an unexpected new album over five years later, what is one to expect from An Amazing Dream?

These 10 songs – coming in at 44 minutes, a welcome length in an age of unwieldy and unedited epics – are for the most part a return to the methadone-soaked dream sounds of the band's debut. Now a trio, The Asteroid #4 draw more from Spiritualized than Olivia Tremor Control, placing an emphasis on cloudy atmosphere than kitchen-sink inventiveness. The guitars either sparkle or drone, and the rhythm section is mostly content to take a back seat, with some exceptions. The success of these songs rides on the vocals and the guitars, which thankfully lead to positive results more often than not.

The first couple of songs establish the modus operandi for the album, as "Take Me Down" begins with steady drumbeats over floating organ before launching into a shimmering guitar-pop song and "Here We Go" is simply a peppy tune that grows into a pretty thick soup of guitar churn. After the pretty but somewhat lugubrious "The Shepherd," we reach one of the album's highlights. "Outside" begins innocuously, but the sweeping guitar drones buoy a memorable melody as the rhythm section keeps the momentum just strong enough. The lyrics, as with the songs overall, are serviceable but won't exactly set your head buzzing.

The album’s other contender comes next. After 30 seconds of intriguingly creaky sound effects, "Ask Me About Pittsburgh" rides a galloping drumbeat into a vivid pop song filled with jangling versus and a catchy chorus given added weight by layers of guitar. At the end, the song inexplicably decomposes into an echo chamber – not the best decision, as it draws attention from the song's strong center.

Across the rest of An Amazing Dream, memorable songs alternate with those that, while better than bland, simply don't stand up well next to their neighbors. When they're good, they're really good, but a 44-minute album should be able to maintain a higher standard even if they can't all be superb.

By Mason Jones

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