****1/2 out of 5 stars
Five Year Mission’s latest album isn’t a “year’s worth” of episodes but an 11-song tribute to one of the most infamous episodes of the original Star Trek. That the band decided to create an entire album for it is surprising and yet not. But does it equal the band’s previous efforts despite a narrower focus?
For those who don’t know, Five Year Mission is a Star Trek tribute band based in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was formed several years ago with the goal of recording a song for all 80 episodes of the original series (including the first pilot, “The Cage,” and splitting “The Menagerie” into two parts) over the course of five albums. Currently, they’ve recorded three full-length albums and an EP for the popular episode “The Trouble with Tribbles.”
This new album came about because each band member wanted to write a song for this notorious episode. Normally each band member draws episode titles from a hat to see which one they get, but since they all had ideas, they decided to make another EP. However, they all had not one but two song ideas, so it became a full-length album. The band ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the album’s production. In light of the recent death of actor Leonard Nimoy, the album seemed like an ironic but fitting tribute to the man who was immortalized as Spock.
The album begins in typical Five Year Mission fashion with the catchy “Hey, Kara.” It tells the story of a Morg who falls in love with Eymorg leader Kara only to be rejected in favor of Spock’s brain. It’s humorously endearing.
Next is the longwinded “(For His Head is Hollow and I have Touched) Spock’s Brain!” The title is s reference to the TOS episode “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky,” but it’s all about “Spock’s Brain,” obviously. The title is appropriate because this song is about Dr. McCoy performing surgery to put the brain back into Spock’s head and the former episode was a McCoy-centric one. It uses many of the good doctor’s lines from the episode and is even catchier than “Hey, Kara.” It could easily be one of the album’s singles.
Then comes the hilarious “R.C. Spock.” It’s all about Spock’s remote-controlled, brainless body that walks around with Kirk and company as they search for his brain. The catchy chorus almost sounds like a jingle in a commercial. Easily one of the most memorable songs on the album.
This is followed by the punk rock-style “Awful Lot of Trouble.” With punchy lyrics and intense guitars, it’ll remind many of the Beastie Boys. It makes callbacks to “R.C. Spock” and seems to be written from Kirk’s perspective.
The subsequent song, “Within the Mainframe,” is unlike any song Five Year Mission has recorded. The band is known for their musical diversity, but they’ve never had one like this. This is a Daft Punk-esque techno song. Considering this song is about Spock’s brain running a planet-controlling supercomputer, the style is fitting. It also fits with the strangely robotic dialogue Leonard Nimoy speaks in the episode.
“Colder in Russia” is a song title that’s confusing at first until the listener realizes it’s about Chekhov and the redshirts left on the surface of the planet while Kirk, McCoy, Scotty and Spock’s body went underground. All they do is make a “campfire” by heating a rock with a phaser, but the band still gave them a song. How nice of them.
“(Gotta Save) Spock’s Brain” is a Ramones-inspired hard rock song with a fast beat and staccato lyrics. It fits the episode’s race against time to find Spock’s brain within 24 hours before he dies.
“Eymorg” is the album’s token ballad. It’s reminiscent of “Metamorphosis” from their “Year Three” album. This is Kara’s song, as it tells the latter half of the episode from her perspective, using some of her childish-sounding dialogue. At six-and-a-half minutes, it’s the longest song on the album. It speeds up two-thirds of the way through when Kara is forced to use the Teacher, but then it slows down again when she refuses to use the knowledge to save Spock. It parallels the episode excellently.
From there, ironically, comes “The Givers of Pain & Delight,” which is the shortest track on the album at only 40 seconds. It’s a heavy metal “screamo” song with almost indecipherable lyrics. Some would say it’s only one step above noise. It’s a song for the random Morg interrogated by Kirk.
“My Directive is Prime” is a tongue-in-cheek piece that humorously paints Kirk as a pompous jerk who sort of violates the Prime Directive in the episode. He forces the Morg and Eymorg to live together on the harsh surface without their technology because he thinks that’s what’s best for them.
The album doesn’t end there. There’s the “hidden” bonus song “Spock’s Dog.” It’s pure lighthearted nonsense that has little, if anything, to do with the episode. Apparently, in this song Spock has a teleporting dog that is dressed as a unicorn. (That only sounds a little goofier than “Spock’s Brain”). It’s silly and funny.
Five Year Mission may once again be taking a sidetrack from their “mission,” but this is an entertaining diversion. Most of the songs are memorable and explore different facets of the episode. Ironically, none of these songs will be used in the “Year” album that includes this episode. Yes, that means the band is writing nearly a dozen songs for the worst episode of the original series. Go figure.
Regardless, Mr. Nimoy would be proud of these young fans. It’s a wonderful tribute for a great character and a wonderful actor.