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*space age sounds of
The Elks Skiffle Group
The Space Age Sounds of The Elks Skiffle Group
Happy Beat


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If you're willing to believe the assertions made by the CD jacket, the Elks Skiffle Group are a quartet of four stalk-eyed, brightly-colored, suspiciously finger-puppet-like aliens who've come to Earth -- specifically, the British seaside resort community of Blackpool -- to make a hit pop record (and possibly to do a bit of conquering and enslaving while they're at it).

Of course, it's also possible that the Elks Skiffle Group could be the creation of a bunch of publicity-dodging, gimmick-friendly Brits. But that's far too cynical an approach to bother with here.

Either way, The Space Age Sounds... is packed with pop gems. Soft, breathy female vocals top fluffy, sugary retro-pop keyboard melodies and casiotone bleep-blips; the whole package sounds as if it's been brought forward in time from the early 1960s and run through a "Stereolabifier". It's an almost overwhelmingly sweet sound, but it works -- in part due to the sheer charm of these one, two and three-eyed aliens, and in no small way because of the gentle appeal of these stargazing songs about peace, love, UFOs and conquest of the Earth. Brief vignettes, apparently transmissions from Radio Blackpool, connect the songs, further ingraining the dreamlike holiday mood.

Disconnected from their brightly-colored avatars, the real musicians behind the Elks Skiffle Group are undoubtedly talented. They've got a knack for lightweight, threadbare pop hooks and melt-in-your-mind melodies. They've mastered mood manipulation, too -- if you can listen to The Space Age Sounds... for more than five minutes and remain grumpy, it's time to reserve a room in the Benevolent Home For Right Bastards. But without the mental image of the lovably xenomorphic Roosevelt Elk, Janice Electrolux, Johnny Casserole and Hoover Constellation, these songs would rapidly grow cloying. Score one for the gimmick.

The Elks Skiffle Group might not manage to conquer the world -- to look at them, they'd probably be scared off by Tom Baker waving a raygun made out of a stick of Blackpool rock -- but they're poised to take over your stereo. Resistance is useless, earthling.

-- George Zahora

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