Concentric circles of blue, red, yellow and orange like a sun in the middle of a darker blue background and the word Terrestrials

In the first Star Trek movie, 1979’s unimaginatively-titled Star Trek: The Motion Picture, there is a scene where the USS Enterprise gets sucked into a wormhole. This spatial anomaly wreaks havoc on time (or something) so everyone on the bridge is suddenly rendered blurry and left speaking in deep, distorted voices.

Kirk is lunging to-and fro in his captain’s chair. A bald lady is there, giving ominous countdowns to impact with some rapidly-approaching celestial body. I’m pretty sure the dad from “Seventh Heaven” is in there somewhere, maybe firing photon torpedoes as he drones on in his slow, time-warped voice.

It’s a truly awful movie, remembered only for its ambition (and failure) to live up to the spectacle of Kubric’s 2001 or the fun of Star Wars, and does not bear rewatching for clarification on any of this. The point being, the scene in question is slow, sucks, and seems to take forever to get anywhere.

Though they may share a corner of the cosmos with Spock and the gang, the debut, self-titled EP from Columbus space-rockers Terrestrials is galaxies apart from the Enterprise crew’s first disastrous foray onto the silver screen. This album is Fast, abundantly entertaining, and over all too soon.

Available as a 12” from indie label Heel Turn, Terrestrials blasts off with the track “Aman Dude,” which is ostensibly about a man, dude. With its fuzzed-out, screaming guitar and rolicking organ licks, it is similar in style to the more upbeat Ariel Pink cuts, and just as weird. The song breaks down midway through for a spoken-word section chronicling multiple alien abductions, which somehow reminds of the Chamber Brothers’ classic “Time has come today” - if it had been recorded under the influence of LSD on some alien moon.

The second track, “Children of Heat,” continues the theme of alien encounter while setting the tight, frenetic pace that defines the middle portion of the record. Asking, “Do you hide in the sheets when they come for you?” vocalist Ian Graham lets abduction phenomena speak for a host of childhood fears, rational or otherwise. Meanwhile, synth sounds suggestive of swirling cosmic rays and kitschy 1950’s sci-fi films form the backdrop for the group’s decidedly garage-rock attack.

The album’s next three tracks all clock in around  2 minutes each - a bold choice for a release comprised of just seven total songs. With lyrical content describing Saturn’s rings captured in a person’s eye, or a hungry beast straight out of Forbidden Planet, the spacey aesthetic of this project could not be rendered more explicitly.

This portion of the record all blurs together in a mist of the same sci-fi whirs and beeps, leaving the listener with little to grasp, save for an abrupt and hilariously satisfying divergence into a few bars of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” to close out the track “Teenage Waistband,” the record’s shortest (and most punk) offering at just 1 minute and 27 seconds.

After the sonic onslaught that comprises the album’s middle section, the group slows things down with a piece titled “Eerie.” Cutting much of the background noise in favor of spooky interplay between drums and keys, this is perhaps the album’s most accessible track. Here, Graham evokes the darker sides of Tom Waits and Nick Cave, with shades of The Doors flavoring every aspect of the composition. In keeping with the space theme, whirling, theremin-esque effects prevail, though in a notably more subdued manner than in the previous tunes.

Finishing things off, the EP’s closing number, “Moonblade,” fuses uptempo surf riffs, driving basslines and blasts of vintage organ vibe. The trailing guitar solo at the song’s end is drenched in summer of love vibes, while Graham’s manic vocals and some generous hi-hat razzmatazz ensure the proceedings end on a memorable note.

In the heart of every rocker, there is an inner sci-fi nerd crying to be set free. It’s no coincidence that so many practice spaces and bedrooms are adorned with blacklight posters featuring comic unicorns dashing triumphantly through the cosmos - the combination of space imagery and loud, frenetic rock just works. This is music best heard from the open door of a mural-bedecked conversion van, or at least through the haze of your mother’s smoke-filled basement. 

Though some songs wind up feeling repetitive in spite of a relatively short album length (under 25 minutes total) Terrestrials debut perfectly blends 60’s psychedelia with mid-fi garage and punk, all while capturing the deliciously corny feel of golden age sci-fi.

Catch Terrestrials as they are joined by The Pink Owl and His Supernatural Fears and Primitives at Ace of Cups on August 17 for their EP release show.

Mike Thomas is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. Follow him on twitter @MikeThomasWords

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