A Spree Outside The Atmosphere: Opposite Day Releases Space Taste Race, Pt. 2
I sat down and tried to describe Opposite Day to myself. The words came to me, and then they left. Then, I smiled at the thought that this could be one of the aesthetics the band is trying to achieve: a pleasant disarray of emotion and interpretation. This Austin fusion, power trio can take you out of your seat, by broaching multiple rock sub-genres in the most graceful way, with seamless time changes that become a canvas for killer jazz guitar melodies, funky bass lines, punk and/ or metal patterns in the drums, and then it all changes again, and the world of progressive rock says, “Thank you.”
Opposite Day celebrated their CD release of Space Taste Race, Pt. 2 on September 11, 2015 at Hole in the Wall, and they packed the house. There was no moment of stage banter between songs, just performance. The audience came to hear music, and they got it. We sipped our drinks, and we listened with almost the social graces of a recital hall crowd. Then it was back to slight head bangs and generous hollers. Indeed, this album contains fifteen tracks, generally ranging from 1:35 to 4:40, so you better hold on tight whether you are listening live or in your car. While I am new to their music, this track time frame seems to be the norm from earlier albums and EPs: Economics for Mr. Ugly (2003), Fictional Biology (2005), Saftey First (2007), What Is Is? (2009), Mandukhai (2010), Reindeer Flotilla (2011), and Space Taste Race, Pt. 1 (2012). What the band really achieves with each song is the listener’s need to hit that back button and play the whole song just one more time. Sure, the moments are fleeting, but the musical experience is non-contrived, astonishing, and a cerebral journey. The bonus? You can sing along.
The first track, “Drake Equation,” depicts one of the band’s overall themes of mathematics (others include science, robots, the universe and galactic exploring, climate dangers, and other themes) and therefore, the song utilizes that spontaneity of math rock. There’s a subject, then an answer, vice versa, and then maybe it all mixes in together at some point. The bass (Greg Yancey) provides the fills between melodic motifs, almost acting as a percussive instrument with the odd time signatures in the drums (Pat Kennedy). “Ai lou” (2) is a nice multi-sectional piece, and it seems appropriate as Sam Arnold sings of assembling parts of a robot and borrowed intelligence. “Air and Food” (4) is one of the tracks on the album where the band lets the phrases stick around for a little while longer, as the melodic excursions continue to develop in a mostly prog metal landscape, with harmonic minor and/or modes, and fast-moving lyrics. On that note, Sam can break away from the tone on this record as well as others, by exclaiming a whimsical “whoo!” (Panspermia on Space Taste Race, Pt. 1), or the high-pitched “ee!” on “spree” on “The Revolution of the Soul Force”; yes, a crime spree where “turds stole our bikes.” (11). You get everything you could ask for on an Opposite Day record.
It doesn’t stop there, either. Seven of the tracks on Space Taste Race, Pt. 2 were used to film-score Georges Méliès’s A Trip to the Moon (1902). While The Smashing Pumpkins were inspired by the short-film to make the video for “Tonight, Tonight” (1996), Opposite Day decides to set the entirety of it with this group of songs:
(8) Helios Panoptes
(5) Hammer Out Skeletons
(12) Airtight Chariot
(6) Occulus Maria
(9) Underground Veneralia
(10) Insectoid Regicide
(2) Golden Age of Saturn
There are a few tracks on the record where an instrument will play an ostinato melody to create a different space taste texture underneath beautiful lyrics: the guitar against the piano on “The Extent to Which Nothing Is Real” (7), the xylophone against the piano chords in “Fictional Astrobiology” (13), and the gorgeous bass melody on “Theia” (15). Yancey’s finger tapping of that melody, especially in its amazing tone, really gives “Theia” a warmness and accentuates the lyrics: “Titan of brilliance, mother of Selene from whom all shininess proceeds.”
To finally put my words all together, Opposite Day gives the notion that nothing is absolute, we can not be stuck in our atmosphere, and it’s okay to not have the right answer. We have to venture outward and break the bubble of mundane, homogeneous, and the continuous retro-mania of American culture. I encourage the listener to try all of the above.