Today we’ll be looking at the third album from Hum. The one that skyrocketed them into the fringes of the mainstream. This comes as the third installment from a series of reviews for this Chicago band who sadly lost their longtime drummer Bryan St. Pere some days ago. This serves as a tribute from us here at Buzzyband and a way for us to celebrate one of the more influential acts in the indie and alt-rock scene. The aforementioned album is You’d Prefer an Astronaut which was released in 1995. And if in case there’s only one album in their discography that you can spare time for, I’d say have a go at this one. As here we find Hum as a complete, fully realized entity. Here is where they’ve moved away from the normal trappings of alt-rock to define their own sound. Using the initial steps gathered from 1993’s Electra 2000 as a launching pad to propel themselves beyond the stratosphere with their strong otherworldly sound.
Which becomes immediately clear in the opening “Little Dipper”. A song with waves of shoegaze-rooted riffs that oscillate and swell into an atmospheric drone. One that elicits an overwhelming feeling of being small against the greater universe. A clash of cymbals and pummeling riffs dominate this album, yet with all the volume and its density comes a hypnotic and almost peaceful feeling that’s hard to achieve with this much sound. While the Pumpkins, Nirvana and Green Day zigged during the height of 90’s alternative rock, it was Hum who were zagging for the stars on their own accord.
Which leads us to the most popular song from the band’s whole discography. “Stars” gained popularity partly due to being featured in a Cadillac car commercial, yet it endured in the ears of the masses due to its dynamic hooks that perfectly sums up the ebb and flow of emotions from a head-over-heels love. This song has pop sensibilities embedded within its wave of riffs, which makes it very palatable for a wide audience – and is the main characteristic of Hum that’s been borrowed by bands looking to make it loud and big during the era.
Other notables here include the fierce yet relaxing concoction of “Why I Like The Robins” and the bombastic yet charming “I’d Like Your Hair Long”. These songs are paced in between the quiet tunes “The Very Old Man” and “Songs of Farewell and Departure”.
You’d Prefer An Astronaut has loads of history surrounding it. It’s a kind of monumental art that new listeners might find familiar, but only because of its wide effect across the genre of rock that still lives on to this day.