POP MUSIC REVIEW : Intelligent Life Emanates From Supernova


I think I’ve caught a space virus.

Luckily, the only apparent symptom is the unwanted (though not entirely unpleasant) mental regurgitation of an impossibly dopey refrain set to a dangerously breezy little tune.

Hong Kong, this is Supernova

No time to buy Coca-Cola.


The source of this virus is a punk rock trio called Supernova, which goes on stage in crash helmets and astronauts’ flight suits, and claims to hail from a garbage dump in outer space. The malady is highly contagious, judging by the fact that Supernova’s show Friday night at Our House was sold out four days in advance. True, the cozy bar and coffeehouse holds fewer than 200 people, but the Costa Mesa trio seems to be generating the biggest local buzz of any new, upcoming local band in quite some time. This goes to show that it never hurts to have a gimmick.

In Supernova’s case, the gimmicks are ancient.

The late Sun Ra, the big-band leader who dressed like a wizard and led his jazz group, the Arkestra, through delightfully spacey shows, was claiming by the ‘60s to be a citizen of the outer planets. David Bowie rocketed to stardom in the early ‘70s by pretending to be a star man. George Clinton spent the same decade erecting an elaborate comic-satiric space mythology around his ensemble, Parliament-Funkadelic.

Devo, though not claiming origins in space, did spout sci-fi theories and wore uniforms like Supernova’s. The gear gave Devo the freedom to bounce around nonstop in a way also mimicked by Supernova.

Musically, Supernova recycles punk and new wave bric-a-brac even rustier than debris from Skylab, the space station that fell out of orbit in 1979 and crashed into Australia. The band plays a hybrid of trash-pop and punk rock that started with the Ramones and, in Supernova’s case, descends most directly from the Dickies, the long-running San Fernando Valley band that exists only to be silly.

Art, the bassist, and Hank, the guitarist (Supernova keeps things on a first-name basis), were nasal yelpers who together sounded like a stereophonic version of the Dickies’ singer, Leonard Phillips.

And they shared the Dickies’ predilection for nonsense. Most of Supernova’s deliberately dopey songs probably took less time to compose than they do to play--and a bunch of those songs clock in at no more than a minute or two.


There is something to be said for dopiness. Nobody needs another angry rant set to a slow, heavy, grinding hard-core punk beat. Supernova found the soft underbelly of hard-core, and tickled it.

The lyric of their thrash-genre spoof went: “Chewbacca! What a wookie!” That chorus was chanted with gleeful enthusiasm and accompanied by Hank’s approximations of the furry space-critter’s roars and R2D2’s robotic beeps and whistles.

Another song found Art happily chirping, over and over, “I’m a fool and I like to drool.” Thank goodness the space virus didn’t encode my brain with that one.

There are few things more insufferable than bands that try to do pop parody without having a deep fondness for and complete mastery of that which they mean to tweak. With its meaty, buzzing guitar riffs, punchy bass, and rapidly tumbling, hard-slamming punk drumming, Supernova has the late-’70s punk thing down better than many bands that take it seriously.

Supernova also hates slam dancing, and Hank heaped scorn on the handful in the house who tried to throw their weight around. This alone proves that Supernova is an intelligent life force, no matter how determinedly brainless its music may be.

On the current Nirvana song, “All Apologies,” Kurt Cobain laments his inability to be “easily amused.” That’s one problem that anyone susceptible to Supernova clearly does not have. On the other hand, Supernova faces the risk assumed by all novelty acts: gimmicks that capture an audience the first and second time can leave it bored the next.



The opening act, Grandpa’s Become a Fungus, also had a tongue-in-cheek quality, but took its influences from avant-rock sources rather than simple-minded ones.

The Mission Viejo band’s angular guitar scrapings owed debts to Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa; its occasional overlay of garage-rock basics with white noise from a sampling keyboard hearkened back to Pere Ubu. Luke Warm, the keyboards player, intoned lyrics in a stilted sing-song that was uncomfortably close to Fred Schneider of the B-52’s.

With the lyrics buried in the mix, it was hard to catch Fungus’ meanings, but the general drift tended toward the weird and the ironic (what else would you expect from a band with a name like that?). It remained unclear whether the band has much to express beyond eccentricity, but the show did prove it can play.