Sci-fi whine, psychedelic synth, and twangy reverb mark People Are Beautiful, the latest effort from Garrett T. Capps and his galactic San Antonio outfit NASA Country. Developed during the pandemic and social heat of 2020, Capps & company craft a soundtrack for X-Filers, hillbilly cosmonauts, and left-of-dialers seeking enlightenment between the honky tonks and stars.
Shades of Harrison, Hendrix, and Kristofferson boil over on opener “Gettin’ Better” offering up Kinks-ish synth and soft metallic clashes with the mantra, “Stay cool, it’s gettin’ better,” as Capps endeavors to hold it all together using hope as a religion.
On the humming and jangly “Happen Anytime”, past lives and spirits converge in a mix of melancholy and comfort before flickering into “Rip Out The Darkness”, a wailer evoking Jimmie Rodgers by way of The Fendermen with spacy fuzz and frustration as Capps sings, “I been listenin’ to the news, and it makes me feel bruised ’cause nobody’s tellin’ the truth and that makes me feel used.”
The eight-cut album hits its stride on “Within It All” a slow build of ambient warmth and crazy diamond shinin’ easing along with bits of dissonance peaking from the fugue before “Time Will Tell” echoes the Chambers Brothers and the 13th Floor Elevators, cruising at sublight somewhere south of Mongo.
“I’m on a hunt for peace,” Capps declares on album highlight “A Better Place”, perhaps reading my mail when he reveals, “I get lowdown, I get loaded, but sometimes I’m okay.” Possibly spirit guided by Lou Reed, guitarist Torin Metz displays velvet chops that offer sweet light in the void before the track crushes out and undulates into the sparkling “Travelin’ Days”.
The title track & album finale comes on strong and defiant, kicking in MC5-ishly with feedback, synth rushing for the fray as Capps vows to get personal. Taking aim at police violence, the economy, social media, and all the horrors the 21st Century manages to manifest, NASA Country fights hate and misinformation, proclaiming, “Our love is irrefutable, cosmically inscrutable, certain facts are immutable,” and finally, no matter our differences, the plain, unironic truth is warts, scars, and all, “People are beautiful.”
Over the last few years, there’s been a wealth of cosmic-flavored alt-country making the rounds– The Kernal, Lasers Lasers Birmingham, Jason Boland’s The Light Saw Me, B.B. Palmer just to check a few– and I’m aggressively for it. I’m as enamored with this record as Capps is with San Antone.