The return of Chris Holmes and Ashtar Command

August 19, 2010

In my book, if in no one else's, Chris Holmes ranks as the greatest squandered talent of Chicago's alternative-rock era, a time that was lousy with them, and he places far ahead even of Christian Lane of Loud Lucy and Dave Trumfio of the Pulsars (who never really wanted to be a rock star anyway, and who remains an active and talented record producer out west).

Holmes first appeared on the scene in the early '90s when he was studying at the University of Chicago, hosting a gonzo radio show on WHPK-FM that mixed UFO quackology and vintage German space-rock, and leading a fine D.I.Y. space-rock combo of his own called Sabalon Glitz. Seeing as how that wasn't really selling -- these were the days of the great major-label alt-rock feeding frenzy, after all -- he started a fine ork-pop combo called Yum-Yum that released one strong album for Atlantic Records before it, too, imploded. (With the benefit of hindsight, 1996's "Dan Loves Patti" can almost be seen as bridging the gap between Cardinal and the Arcade Fire, though it probably didn't even sell as many copies as the former, and it had nowhere near the rousing qualities of the latter.)

Since then, Holmes, who also did a brief stint behind the keyboards during the last real tour by the Smashing Pumpkins, has specialized mostly in dropping the names of his famous friends (he's long since gone as Hollywood as Liz Phair), showing up in the V.I.P. sections of the most unlikely events, and promising new music from Ashtar Command, which started out as an attempt to merge electronica with "The Dark Side of the Moon," but, according to his new publicist, is now a collaboration with fellow U. of C. alum and veteran musical journeyman Brian Liesegang (he was in Filter, did time in Nine Inch Nails, produced Veruca Salt's under-rated "Resolver," and toured with Billy Corgan's "Future Embrace" solo act, among other credits).


Holmes and Liesegang


Says the press release:

You've heard their music everywhere - including "Grey's Anatomy," "The OC," "Ugly Betty" and television ad campaigns for Nissan and Microsoft. Now Chris Holmes and Brian Liesegang step out front with Ashtar Command's first-ever video, "Deadman's Gun."

The hype sheet goes on to explain that the tune -- which sounds just like Yum-Yum, regardless of what Holmes is calling the band -- was penned for "Rockstar Games' critically acclaimed, Western-themed video game, "Red Dead Redemption.'" (Because, you know, after Sergio Leone, nothing says bloody Western shoot-out better than a little genteel ork-pop.) ‚ And it apparently is the precursor to a forthcoming album and tour -- if, of course, Holmes can manage to take time off from being a legend in his own mind to actually make music in a real setting again.

In any event, without further ado, here is the new video from Ashtar Command.