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Space commandos

To accuse the Phenomenauts of gimmickry would be like accusing Dirk Nowitzki of having big teeth. It’s a fact so self-evident that making the point amounts to a colossal waste of breath.

The Bay Area quintet’s gimmick — that these guys are not Oakland working stiffs, but mutant beings from another planet — isn’t even a particularly fresh one, given that it borrows at least partly from the likes of Man or Astroman?, Devo, early David Bowie, and everyone’s favorite ’70s Beatles-reunion hoax, Klaatu. Ultimately, the Phenomenauts wouldn’t be worth discussing if they were not a first-rate rock band, an ensemble which deftly combines rockabilly, power-pop, and punk into a kind of intergalactic new-wave they’ve dubbed “rocket roll.” For example, on “Neptune City,” one of their most infectious tracks, they lampoon every rock ’n’ roll city song, with a melody that recalls the best of ’50s rock and a rhythmic drive that’s undeniably post-punk. And they’ll even incite you to sing along, against your better judgment, with a song entitled “I Am Robot.”

the Phenomenauts

Thu, May 25

White Rabbit
2410 N. St. Mary’s

Fronted by Corporal Joe Bot, with Commander Angel Nova on guitar, Captain Chreehos on bass, Major Jimmy Boom on drums, and Professor Greg Arius on keyboards, the Phenomenauts built a regional following by going commando on arena-rock crowds: setting up outside large venues and playing fast, spirited sets. It’s a space-guerrilla mentality that infuses all their performances, and makes them them one of indie-rock’s most likable gimmicks.

- Gilbert Garcia

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