Someone said “no man is an island” and such phrase has been quoted so many times than one person’s homespun piece of knowledge became a greeting card platitude. I’d like to think we are more like peninsulas, but that has to do more with my obsession with The Simpsons, really.
Jason Thomson is a peninsula that goes by the name of Vast Robot Armies. There’s a couple bridges back to the mainland (we’ll get to those in a bit) but Goodnight Myopia is mostly a one man army effort, where Jason Thomson branches out some ideas from his previous band, Sometimes Why and brings a few new ones.
The genre? The always meditative and slightly wistful one we call Space Rock. Songs? Nine of them, all ready to vie for your attention like kids in a minivan on a roadtrip.
Not gonna lie, there’s a big influence of The Life and Times and it’s understandable since 2/3rds cameo in a couple of tracks, with Eric Albert doing bass duties in 5 tracks (his style is instantly recognisable) and Allen Epley lending vocals in one track (‘Grey area living’). Those are the two bridges back to the mainland, the rest is all the effort of one person. There’s are bits of Castor, Failure and Centaur too.
‘For what it’s worth’ is a mellow starter, the mood setter, if you will, relishing on some brisk drumming, build ups and a dynamic that is more Cirque Du Soleil acrobatics than street carnival entertainer on stilts. ‘The cost of doing business’ is a nice change of pace, adding piano, found sounds (I think field recordings?) and we are suddenly in a more melancholic mood, where solace feels a little less overwhelming with the cyclical sounds crashing like waves.
‘6 year vignettes’ has a very sexy bass line, well paired in an instrumental break with a decisive drum bashing, that soundscaping guitar drone and a keyboard sound. There’s something in this track that reminds me of finding an old, slightly smelly photograph album and glimpse a life in Kodachrome, a life that seems to belong to someone else but you somehow still identify with. This moment strikes back further in the album in ‘Heads’.
This might start to sound like a Sadcore effort, but stuff like the vivacious ‘Old hat’ lifts the mood, like that bit of cardio training that steps up things to get you out of the comfort zone. ‘Bullish One Hitters’ is probably the track that lives the Space Rock tag the best: moody notes, a very relaxed pace (for 6 minutes that feel like 3), quiet moments juxtaposed with loud (but not overtly) notes. No wonder it’s smack in the middle of Goodnight Myopia, it seems everything is orbiting around this moment.
‘Grey Area Living’ is another lovely one, pretty much a straightforward affair that stops for a few moments to catch its breath. That feeling of nostalgia I keep picking up from the genre might be better represented in ‘We go where we know’ and its lyrics: “Married to moments / long since come and gone / Buried with purpose / unearthed not long from now.” Agree, the past sometimes feels like a lifetime commitment and sometimes it loves to strike back. ‘Epic’ closes our journey in a mostly instrumental way, almost droning in a hazy mood, like a sunset in a long stretch of road in an Autumn day.
I tend to associate Space Rock with nostalgia and regret. Let’s call it introspection, because that’s what it is. My usual justifications are ‘Charlotte Street’ (The Life and Times) and ‘Stars’ (Hum), songs that convey sadness hidden into strong, upbeat music. Pairing the sounds of Goodnight Myopia with a photo of a disused billboard seems to drive this feeling further home: there was something useful there some time ago, now it’s faded and gone. Not all is gloom and doom, but sometimes a bit of introspection helps one correct their heading and with Vast Robot Armies you get a slowdown from the rat race to gaze at sunsets. Best consumed with a cup of coffee.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López