Sometimes I think I’m going to like a CD before I even sit down to listen to all of it. I had heard only Alan Astor’s “Fantastic Fantasy” single when this disc entered my possession. My curious ass downloaded it a while ago and its cheap existential dance moves whet my appetite at the time, giving me a brief shot of sugary dance relief against mutilated beats like those on Yellow Swan’s Bring the Neon War Home (which I was listening to compulsively). Everything Is Possible seemed like it may be that one glimmer of hope; you now, that electronic pop record that comes out every now and then that smacks you in the face and asks you just what the hell you’ve been listening to lately (see Anniemal, Deep Cuts, the first half of Michael Jackson’s catalogue, et caetera).
Reading the press kit that came with Everything Is Possible I learn that Astor has had a troubled past. He was dabbling here and there with drugs, relocating away from home, and struggling in New York for a few years. Not your everyday fairytale. Then I read about how he cleaned himself up, started listening to Aphex Twin and Autechre and began writing some really personal music. Apparently he’s played a few successful shows in New York too, which has allowed him to record this full length. So I think I’m supposed to understand that he’s been through some shit, paid his dues and is now prepared to blow everyone’s socks off. Unfortunately, there are a few things wrong with Everything Is Possible for it to be the true calling card that Astor thinks it should be. His most popular track is a cool breezy anthem while the rest remains soft and less focused, which makes me think that Astor should stick to making singles for the clubs and maybe releasing a collection of them down the line. “Fantastic Fantasy” is decent stuff, but everything goes slightly downhill from there.
After “Fantastic Fantasy” comes “There’s No Shame” where Astor tries to channel David Byrne into his cheap dance world with a melody derivative of mid to late 90’s dance fodder; the song does not succeed and he should in fact be a tad shameful (sorry for that). “Astral America” is uplifting in a way, but there are moments on it and all of Everything Is Possible where the majority of the music fades away and you hear Astor speak sing passionately over a bass beat or something—such moments almost feel as if you’re being preached to. On “The World Is A Lot” Astor tries to mix Old Blue Eyes with something that sounds straight out of a musical. “Power After Hours” is pretty cool with the sound effects and unique guitar treatment; it’s almost Smiths like in a way. The final two tracks on this CD are remixes of “Fantastic Fantasy” which are, coincidentally, probably the best two tracks on this disc aside from the original. If you’re going to make dance music or pure pop, people like it one of two ways: sugar coated to death or in a cathartic mix of pop and personal turmoil (see Annie or MJ). If you can’t do one then go all the way for the other. Unless you’re a genius, philosophical waxing on record ruins otherwise perfectly good pop songs. The biggest problem that this disc has is that it tries to mix personal sentiment with blissed out beats, and that’s a very tricky game.
/sept 1st 2005/