As TV networks celebrate 50 years since humans first touched the surface of the moon this week, an album that follows an extraterrestrial’s inaugural journey with mankind on Earth is timely released. With a name that sounds like a female Flash Gordon, Grace Lightman’s eccentric, satirical, ambitiously creative, fun and shape-shifting debut is a concept album that follows the journey of an alien called Silver Eater. The sobriquet of the alien and the album’s title of Silver Eater, was inspired by the weird tale of Paul Karason from the early noughties. As a consequence of consuming and absorbing lots of silver to help with his arthritis, his skin turned permanently blue, and therefore ending up looking like and being treated like a dehumanized martian.
Completely from the perspective of Grace Lightman’s fictional inquisitive invader Silver Eater, her first album is both a humorous and analytical observation on humanity’s quirks and contradictions. Reminiscent of Bowie’s Newton in the Man Who Fell To Earth or Sil in Species. “Silver, Silver Eater. So becoming. I am alien to an earth in a wormhole”, sings the eponymous character as they introduce themselves on the 80’s sparkling synth disco opener ‘Repair Repair’. They also observe society’s self-care culture and the way brands use to this human insecurity to their advantage with a bemused giggle. It begins like a commercial: “Coca, coca-cola. Coz we’re human and it’s sweet enough,” and goes to comment on cherry lipstick, satin rollerblades and nail polish.
Grace Lightman’s tongue-and-cheek songwriting about modern culture is continued on the dangerously-catchy synth pop ‘Aztec Level’. It’s reminiscent of Goldfrapp’s ‘Ooh La La’ – Lightman also oozes the same cool yet sophisticated appeal as Alison Goldfrapp – and is flavoured with a subtle Egyptian wooziness and a stomping fuzzy crescendo. It’s such a strong critique on the hipster pretentious of trend-following within art and fashion, and its favouring of style over substance, that its lyrics were apparently picked out of a hat: a spontaneous parade of French products and stylish language: “Coco, co-come again? Excuse-moi Christian Dior. Tonight, ce soir. Amore amore.”
Title track ‘Silver Eater’ is one of many tracks that touches upon the extraterrestrial’s anxiety when venturing through Earth and is one of numerous occasions where Grace Lightman‘s voice sounds like a beautiful blend of Natalie Prass and Kate Bush (also hear the neo-soul ‘An Ordinary Life‘). The alien finds itself in a common science-fiction film scenario. It has found a comfortable haven with an open-minded lover (like in Splash) or welcoming family (like in Spielberg’s E.T) but is in fear that “NASA’s going to find me. Then they’re gonna take me.” They inform their protector of their current thoughts: “I know you would never hand me in until the floodlights fall on me.” Silver Eater is so keen to fit in with human society even at the point of death, that they have a special posthumous request: ” I want a human funeral, with an indigo tombstone and a quote from Elvis.”
This anxious need to tetris-in to mankind is also carried in Silver Eater‘s unique mid-album interludes; the experimental drum piece ‘Rescue Party’ (featuring the sought-out drummer Homer Steinwess) and the haunting lo-fi acoustics of ‘Get Me Out of Here’. The alien attempts to master the social requirements of a house party but ends up panicking and calling for a getaway car.
Two of Silver Eater‘s last three tracks ‘Deep Space Gateway’ and ‘Iridescent Behaviour’ close the record with a science fiction explosion of creativity. The former is an epic instrumental of hypnotic frequencies and surprising electronic sparks. It’s as if Giorgio Moroder composed the music to the flashing lights Star Gate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Silver Eater alien takes listeners on an unforgettable voyage through the solar system to their planet.
Yet it’s on the finale ‘Iridescent Behaviour’ in which alien is actually saying goodbye to Earth after their brief stay with us. “Keep it as a souvenir. Like a trail of vapours. Watching as they disappear. ‘Bon Voyage’ As the saying goes. If you love me, let me go.” It’s a track that really encapsulates the whole album’s ambitious nature, shape-shifting mood (after all, isn’t that what the alien character is attempting to do while on this planet) and space age theme. It begins as a familiar modern New York-ish R&B track before suddenly metamorphosing into a fuzzy, suffocating and nauseous ballad. Then at the finale, we are catapulted into the empty, spacious, cold and creepy yet mesmerizing realm of outer space, with a captivating composition of grand ambience.
Like her name, Grace Lightman’s debut ‘Silver Eater’ is glowing with refreshing indie-pop ideas delivered with grace and curious wonder. Much like the mindset on the astronauts on Apollo 11.