There are two alien-centered blockbusters in theaters currently. To immense anticipation, Ridley Scott tries his directorial hand at sci-fi for the first time since 1982′s Blade Runner with Prometheus, a prequel to his genius Alien. To far less excitement, the third installment of the Men in Black series is out and combines at least three formulaic plot devices. In any event, what better time to visit/revisit some songs about extraterrestrial life?
1. Bikini Kill – “Alien She”
Pussy Whipped (1994)
While this song is clearly about alienation versus alien life, what would one deem a female stripper trying to break into the early 80′s male-dominated punk scene of Olympia, WA? “Alien She” is just over a minute and half of grizzly, feminist punk power. Kathleen Hanna is the “alien she, and [she] is her!” exemplifying the burgeoning Riot Grrrl scene.
2. The B-52′s – “Planet Claire”
The B-52′s (1979)
This is the first of two tracks on this list released in 1979, the debut year of Ridley Scott’s Alien. “Planet Claire” is the opening track to the B-52′s debut s/t LP. If nothing else this track exhibits the playful imagination that dominates the entire album; in this case surf rock meets outer space with Fred Schneider’s effeminate delivery: “Planet Claire has pink hair. / All the trees are red. / No one ever dies there. / No one has a head!”
3. David Bowie – “Starman”
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1972)
What would a list of ETs be without David Bowie? He’s the first musician to question if there was life on Mars! The list could have been dedicated solely to Ziggy Stardust. The live performance above is a must-see if for no other reason than to admire Bowie’s jumpsuit which appears to be quilted out of koi fish skins: if the Starman won’t blow your mind, the jumpsuit will.
Not to be confused with Jeff Bridges’ 1984 role…
4. Guided by Voices – “Hardcore UFOs”
Bee Thousand (1994)
“Hardcore UFOs” is the opener to Guided by Voices’ most celebrated album as well as the namesake track to their 2003 box set compilation. “Hardcore UFOs,” outside of being a lo-fi gem, poses the two most important questions for ‘indie’ rock alien life: “Are you amplified to rock? / Are you hoping for a contact?”
5. Hüsker Dü – “Books About UFOs”
New Day Rising (1985)
American prog-punk meets ragtime on Hüsker Dü’s “Books About UFOs.” It’s a love song about a stargazing bookworm. There were rumors that Greg Norton’s handlebar mustache is actually a nostril-feeding alien parasite; if a single hair is trimmed, an acid drips potent enough to burn through steel.
6. Joe Satriani – “Surfing With the Alien”
Surfing With the Alien (1987)
This is the only instrumental on the list, but damn can Satriani shred. And no offense, but the James Carville with sunglasses look is awfully alien-like.
7. The Magnetic Fields – “Alien Being”
The House of Tomorrow 7″ (1996)
This b-side encapsulates all of the adorable charm of 1994′s The Charm of the Highway Strip. Stephin Merritt, who has seemingly fallen in and out of love for an eternity, sings: “You have no feelings. / I think you are an alien being.”
8. Radiohead – “Subterranean Homesick Alien”
OK Computer (1996)
After years of being a Radiohead shill “Subterranean Homesick Alien” still manages to stand out on an album that is totally stacked. If you made it two tracks into OK Computer without it gripping you, this one would’ve been the sinker to match the hook and line. Unfortunately no official music video…
9. The Soft Boys – “Alien”
Underwater Moonlight [3-Disc Reissue] (2001)
The Soft Boys were on the top of their game in 1980 with Underwater Moonlight and the track “Alien,” which was released thirty years later on the And How it Got There… reissue, is proof in some sloppy blues pudding.
10. Sufjan Stevens – “Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, IL”
Sufjan Stevens’ soft voice and the subtle mix of piano and flute sound drastically different than anything else on this list. But, there is an obvious reason why “Concerning the UFO Sighting…” is the gorgeous opener to Stevens’ iconic Illinoise.
11. Tubeway Army – “Praying to the Aliens”
Gary Numan’s legacy, Tubeway Army or solo, has unfortunately been relegated to the realm of a one-hit-wonder with “Cars” off of 1979′s incredible The Pleasure Principle. Replicas, released only five months prior as Tubeway Army, is another testament of Numan’s brilliance. Gary Numan may be closer to android than an alien, but it should be noted that androids do accompany humans on space-mining missions.
12. Wipers – “Alien Boy”
Is This Real? (1980)
“Alien Boy’ was first released on an EP of the same name in early 1980 as the cover to Is This Real? boasts “includes ‘Alien Boy’ EP.” It’s a great song from a great American punk band that deserves more attention.
* * *
That’s an album’s worth of material on aliens. Now go to the theater [for Prometheus] or grab a Philip K. Dick novel!