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Thursday 20 March 2003

Sci-Fi Punks from Planet Earth

  • Rarr!
    D.C. Moon and His Atomic Supermen
    (Boiled Hippo Records, P.O. Box 20039, Tuscaloosa AL 35402, (205) 343-6542;; $10.99 from, which has one five-star listener review)

  • Reviewed by Andy Duncan

The new CD from D.C. Moon and His Atomic Supermen is titled Rarr! in tribute to one of Moon’s favorite movies, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. While recently watching the picture on television with the closed captioning switched on, Moon noticed that any sound the Ray Harryhausen creature made was captioned as “Rarr!”

The CD art, a collaboration between Moon and drummer David Standifer, thus shows a “Rarrasaurus” menacing the AmSouth bank building, the tallest in Moon’s hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama — here blessedly minus the ugly time-and-temperature sign permanently suspended atop the real building like a junked mother ship. Maybe the Rarrasaurus already bit it off.

Moon has been knocking around the Southeastern punk and science fiction scenes for a while — playing cons, collaborating with John Shirley and Nancy Collins, opening for Gwar (a thankless task). He also is one of the founding members of the two-month-old Tuscaloosa Science Fiction Society, where is where I belatedly met him. Rarr!, which contains a couple of older Moon songs as well as a pod full of new ones, is a good introduction for the rest of you.

Even when Moon isn’t performing, an hour spent in his company — discussing DragonCon, Esperanto, David J. Schow’s The Outer Limits Companion — leaves one convinced that Forry Ackerman, not that tight-ass pretender John W. Campbell, is the true guiding genius of American science fiction, with the most pervasive and long-lasting impact on American culture as a whole. But Moon really hammers this point home once he picks up his guitar. Like all of us, Moon watched entirely too much television growing up, and the songs on Rarr! — all but one written by Moon himself — will set off photon torpedoes in the memory of anyone hip enough (or geeky enough) to know what MST3K stands for: “They’re Coming After You,” “I Married a Woman from Outer Space,” “Colossal Man.”

The cheerfully manic “The Communists, the Martians and the C.I.A.,” an X-Files update of Bob Dylan’s “Talking John Birch Paranoid Blues,” shows off Moon’s talents as a writer and a singer. His vocals manage to sound, all at once, like Rocky Horror’s Richard “Riff Raff” O’Brien, Fred Schneider of The B-52’s and Rick Miller of Southern Culture on the Skids. Another standout, “My Virtual Julie,” strikes a surprisingly wistful note in its ode to online chat-room sex; it’s like a Jonathan Lethem story set to music by The Who circa “Pictures of Lily.”

Moon gets able support from the rest of the Atomic Supermen, including Standifer (the band’s co-founder), bass player Ricky Lee, top-notch guitarist and keyboardist Warren Eckstein (who moonlights, off stage, as the most intentionally funny person in Gordo, Alabama) and a crowd favorite, Celesta Riner, who sings, shimmies, yelps and plays the vibraslap, a percussion instrument that sounds like a surprised rattlesnake and looks like something borrowed from a mad scientist’s lab, or maybe the salad bar at Ryan’s. The vibraslap provides ominous undertone for the CD’s first track, “Vasquez Rocks,” which appropriately is inspired by a backdrop: Vasquez Rocks is the jagged landscape near Los Angeles that has served as the Monument Valley of generations of low-budget filmmakers. (Kirk fought the Gorn there.)

Riner’s vocals, which suggest both Grace Slick and Nico, are showcased in concert by the band’s most haunting number, the Twilight Zone-inspired “Number Twelve Looks Just Like You” — from the band’s sadly out-of-print second CD, The Uncertainty Principle. (You can hear the song at the band’s website,

In his March 15 show at The Chukker, the gloriously seedy bar next door to his downtown Tuscaloosa apartment, Moon dedicated “They’re Coming After You” — inspired both by the opening dialogue of Night of the Living Dead and by Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll, Part Two” — to his friend Sandra Sahm, a popular Tuscaloosa bartender who died March 3 of complications from diabetes, at age 31. Sahm, Moon explained, was a big zombie fan and an aspiring author of zombie fiction.

This short, touching intro, like Rarr! and, indeed, Moon’s whole act, is a reminder that in a horrific world, the made-up horrors we grew up with — the more low-rent and kitschy, the better — continue to serve us well, as old friends, places of refuge, excuses to party. Everybody who reads Locus Online should enjoy partying with D.C. Moon. Everybody Rarr!

Andy Duncan, winner of the Sturgeon Award and two World Fantasy Awards, lives in Northport, Alabama.

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