March Through Time: Klaatu

Klaatu may have benefited to some degree by the rumors of them being the Beatles-in-disguise, but the backlash to the hype ultimately did them no favors. Try, if you can, to forget the hype. The group released five albums between 1976 and 1981, and four of them are very, very good indeed.

  • Klaatu aka 3:47 EST (1976) – The album from which which the Beatles ruse drew its inspiration, 3:47 EST is a classic. The original recording of “Calling Occupants” is a lovely hybrid o soft-pop, rock and a bit of prog and space rock. Come to think of it, the whole album fits that description. And “Sub-Rosa Subway” is one of the greatest Magical Mystery Tour-era pastiches you’ll ever encounter.
  • Hope (1977) – Even more ambitious than the debut, Hope featured the London Symphony Orchestra to great effect. Side Two’s majestic must-hear track “Prelude” handily beats ELO at their own game. The tunes are strong, the production and arrangement lush and finely wrought. A triumph.
  • Sir Army Suit (1978) – Perhaps the Beatleisms were too on-the-nose here, but the music was still excellent. The entirety of Side One is superb, as is most of the second side. Only the space-filling “Silly Boys” is a misstep. Highly recommended.
  • Endangered Species (1980) – Even at the time, to the ears of this then sixteen-year-old – something about this record wasn’t right. The unique qualities of the group were gone; the songs felt faceless, and the sharp hooks had vanished. The involvement of studio musicians didn’t help. Not worth seeking out, this one.
  • Magentalane (1981) – Klaatu rallied for their final release, though by that time few were listening. I wasn’t even aware of this record’s existence until the 21st century. Released only in the band’s native Canada, it’s a worthy companion to the early records, worth acquiring and hearing.