Review: The Planet The – You Absorb My Vision

Originally published in Delusions of Adequacy Feb. 17, 2006
If there’s one truth that announces itself during the infectious, hip-shaking dance beats and angular, synth-soaked romps of You Absorb My Vision, the sophomore outing from the Portland, Oregon-based trio The Planet The, it’s this: these guys have got a massive hard-on for Devo.
And hard-on clearly may be the operative word.
Sensuality, sexual longing, and straight-out, unhinged lust seem to pulse through much of the 23-minute mini-LP and lurk in even its most obscure corners. This isn’t a record to drop on the phonograph with dimmed lights and a glass of red wine, though. The Planet The’s amped and almost skittish electro/prog-pop is more a document of the sexually charged variety, the collection of 80s-conscious freakouts Gary and Wyatt would’ve cranked out of frustration before getting the girls and handing John Hughes his happy ending.

The band is also nothing if not committed to their aesthetic. While some groups lace their lazy refrains with synth washes and Moog homages or drop an occasional reference to the stagy flamboyances of glam-rock, The Planet The seems to proudly, unabashedly place these elements front and center in all their quirky glory.

The results can be as bizarrely engaging as they are downright impossible to shake from your head. Take the punchy, shouted verses of the album-opening “Look of a Woman,” the way plodding Atari-tinged narration launches into the bouncy synth-drum workouts and dueling falsettos of “Trapped Under a Ocean,” or the Servotron-style guitar meltdowns and jittery bridges of “Dreams of Your Co-Workers” and “Tennis.”

Elsewhere on the record, the trio takes its occasional missteps – reminding one, perhaps, of why Brainiac began wandering away from the Moog in efforts to expand its sonic palette – but even those moments can be strangely illuminating. Brainiac and its late frontman, the inimitable Timmy Taylor, are actually ideal points of reference.

The Planet The may owe its synth-scapes and punchy, pop-conscious choruses to acts like Devo, but the sense of abandon and the group’s tendency to unleash a stream of passionate falsetto calls and responses over clattering prog-noise is vintage Brainiac. Nowhere is this clearer than on “The Look of a Woman” or “Trapped Under a Ocean,” where the message is not the words as much as the thrust with which it is delivered.

The record closes, oddly enough, not with a synth-driven barnburner but “Envision My Zorb,” a pensive and almost somber (albeit strangely titled) reflection nudged along with a mumbling, strummed guitar line and understated drums.

On the track, Charlie, the trio’s vocalist and guitarist, sings lines like “Put your fingers / on the roof of your mouth” with an almost heartbreaking urgency instead of unleashing them with an edgy bark or breathless shout. And then, just when you think The Planet The is about to depart from its sexually and electronically charged trademarks and veer off orbit, there it is: the engaging descent into spacey synths begins as the group whispers, gasps, mutters, and moans in a repeating pattern of half-orgasms. It’s a strange vision but a vision, indeed.

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