Those who know the name Ken Andrews may not be an exceptionally numerous group, but their familiarity with the man goes beyond mere acquaintance. Just about anyone who has heard Failure’s Fantastic Planet can attest to the awesome power of the Los Angeleno’s songwriting and production skills. Having produced, mixed and engineered records for the likes of Pete Yorn, Blinker the Star, Charlotte Martin, Sense Field and Tenacious D, he’s proven himself as quite accomplished behind the boards, though his original artistic works prove even more impressive. In Failure, he and Greg Edwards crafted three impeccable and increasingly ambitious records, not to mention releasing hit single “Stuck on You,” which was one of Treble’s own favorite singles of the ’90s. What’s more, Failure’s cover of “Enjoy the Silence” even prompted Depeche Mode members to say it was better than their own. After Failure’s break-up, Andrews released one album each with subsequent projects On and Year of the Rabbit, making it almost inevitable that he would go on to eventually release a solo album.
One could have actually considered On’s Shifting Skin Andrews’ first solo album, though Secrets of the Lost Satellite is technically the first under his own name, making it official. There are, of course, great similarities between the two. From album to album, one can easily identify his beefy guitar sound, atmospheric effects, epic progressions, and particularly with On and Lost Satellite, massive, bassy synthesizers. Yet while that projects found Andrews attempting to make his own Depeche Mode album, Secrets of the Lost Satellite comes closer to the burly space rock of Failure, abandoning the new wave approach while retaining the synthesized sounds.
Satellite is a bit more compact than Failure’s great opus Fantastic Planet, containing 10 songs rather than 17, though it emits a similar sound overall. Opener “Allergic” doesn’t initially give such an impression, a space-age ballad drifting along weightlessly until the heroic chorus, and then it all starts to fall into place. “Up or Down” is more of a straightforward mid-tempo rocker, plodding heavily with a chord progression similar to that of the outro in Magnified‘s “Small Crimes.” It’s not until “In Your Way” that it truly starts to sound like classic Ken Andrews, with its heavy effects treated guitars riffing away and drums pounding mercilessly. It chugs mightily until the dreamy chorus, in which every overbearing bit of distortion and bassy rumble fades momentarily, only to build back up again into an enormous surge of rock power.
There are some new experiments here, such as the weird violin that opens “Secret Things,” or the twinkling piano in “Tripped Up,” though even these songs ultimately explode into the surging rockers that Andrews is best known for. Secrets of the Lost Satellite is no drastic departure for the former Failure frontman, but that should by no means be read as a complaint. Given that it’s been four years since any of Andrews’ projects had released a full-length, it’s an ecstatic joy to hear him rocking out again.
Year of the Rabbit – Year of the Rabbit
Blinker the Star – August Everywhere
Abandoned Pools – Humanistic
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.