Somewhere between the quasi-classical complexities of post-rock and the hazy melodies of shoegaze exists a certain type of music focused on recreating the atmosphere (or rather lack of atmosphere) of the deepest thresholds in our galaxy.
And no, I’m not talking about The Black Eyed Peas.
Space rock, as it came to be known, started out as a musical starchild birthed from the subject matter of influential psych and prog rock bands like Pink Floyd andHawkwind. The latter of which is considered one of the first space rock groups because of its heavily extraterrestrial releases like 1973’s live double albumSpace Ritual. Along with a few other acts like Gong, these bands helped establish the basic tenets of space rock, fostering both its affinity for cosmic lyricism and airy, reverberated electric guitars.
Because of this vague definition, non-progressive rock bands like T. Rex, whose late frontman Marc Bolan incorporated major cosmic themes in songs like “Planet Queen,” “Venus Loon,” “Cosmic Dancer” and “Ballrooms of Mars,” are often also lumped into the early space rock canon.
However, following its origins as primarily a descriptor, the trend of space rock failed to materialize in any sort of active movement until the late ’80s and ’90s when bands like Hum, Duster, Spacehog, Spiritualized and Spacemen 3released what is now considered the genre’s most defining works. Some of these bands’ songs even managed to achieve radio success like Hum’s 1995 song “Stars,” which made it onto Beavis and Butt-Head, and Spacehog’s 1996 track “In the Meantime,” now a staple of alternative rock stations. Duster’s Stratosphere is a personal favorite, especially “Gold Dust.”
Although this space rock movement didn’t last too long or burn too bright, the influence of the genre extends far beyond its first-string roster who mostly fizzled out after the millennium.
Bands who downplay the space aspect as a cardinal trait and opt to use space rock more as an influence include the likes of Radiohead, Beach House, The Flaming Lips, Explosions In the Sky, Muse and many others ranging fromKyuss to The Darkness.
In 2013, space rock might have arrived at its musical fruition when astronaut Chris Hadfield performed the late David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” while orbiting Earth in the ISS. This performance caused the genre’s modifier to take on a literal meaning, which is something that can’t be said for many other types of music. Maybe death metal.
Regardless, space rock continues to hold onto its cultural grip, popping up in one place or another like a lunar module landing on unexplored moons. Its history is more storied than most of us realize and it’s been an underlying influence in psychedelic and progressive music throughout the several decades it’s been around.
Perhaps there might even be a space rock revival in the coming years after we finally migrate to Mars. I’ll certainly be thanking my lucky stars if either of those things happen.
Luke Furman is a sophomore studying journalism and a reporter for The Post. What’s your favorite space rock song? Tweet him @LukeFurmanOU or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.