31 January 2021

The Aliens - When The River Runs Dry/ Winds Of Time

Glistening melodic prog rock from Bracknell

Label: Alien
Year of Release: 1978

Pity the proggers who arrived too late to the party. Any groups who made the right noises in the early seventies were pretty much guaranteed a record contract and at least one LP in the shops. By the time the mid-70s arrived, however, excitement had waned and both music journalists and some members of the public were looking for different sounds.

The Aliens were from Bracknell and started up in 1977, a whole year after the media began talking about an exciting new phenomenon called punk rock. While I don't tend to buy into the myth that punk "killed" prog rock as such - sales of prog were broadly on the wane by 1975, long before most had become acquainted with John Lydon outside his social circle - it certainly hastened its demise, with column inches in the music press increasingly given over to three-chord teenage rock rather than intricate musicianship from earnest hairies.

Despite this, the audience for prog didn't entirely disappear, and the live circuit still cheered to the sounds of relative latecomers such as Druid and National Health, as well as all the old faithful who couldn't have been less interested in a New Wave styled change of direction. The Aliens were a faithful part of this gig circuit, particularly in the South East region of England, and in 1978 slipped out this self-released record in an attempt to increase the public's awareness of their existence.

For something without any major backing, "When The River Runs Dry" is surprisingly well produced and credit is also due to The Aliens for what is actually a very jangly, melodic piece of prog for a genre which was often littered with flash and showiness in place of emotive songwriting. Besides the strong guitar work, the song also has a brightness to it which might have been appealing to mainstream radio.

Certainly, the track picked up both local and national airplay, and saw the group interviewed on Radio Luxembourg. "Whispering" Bob Harris also gave the group the nod on his show. For all that, no record labels approached the group with a view to giving the single or the group's other work better distribution, and this would be their only release. 

The Aliens continued playing live until the end of 1979, after which they called it a day. The members consisted of Cliff Robertson on guitar and vocals, Jeffro Robertson on drums and vocals, Gary Wells on bass and John Crook on guitar. 

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