The Billy Nayer Show has been a crucial part of my musical and social development since I first discovered it in 2005. I happened upon a musical number featuring two roughnecks harassing Samuel Curtis, singing “Hey Boy” in the just-barely-pre-9/11 “American Astronaut.” The film won the cult favorite band an even larger following and much acclaim among the folks that run the Sundance Film Festival.
Ten years, one album, one name change to American Astronaut, one short film released on cell phones only, two EPs and one name change back to The Billy Nayer Show, the band has just recently premiered its newest film and album “Stingray Sam” to an overwhelmingly enthusiastic audience. Having evolved and perfected its musical sensibilites, The Billy Nayer Show has outdone themselves by offering up a truly unique cinematic and musical experience that is nothing if not genius. If you haven’t seen either film, my explaining that “Stingray Sam” continues the theme of a western musical in space will make it seem like a tacky novelty, but if you have seen the films, then you will understand that The Billy Nayer Show is without a genre. You really just need to see them, because they stand for themselves.
Without the context of the six-episode film, the “Stingray Sam” soundtrack is still an amazing, genre-less album that plays like well-produced intergallactic bar rock. By giving traditionally country riffs a more spaced out, fuzzy sound, The Billy Nayer Show constructs a unique sound that gives life to the phrase “space is a lonely town.”
Predominately instrumental, the album is a sprawling amble that is pure style. It is the great pilgrimage through the wild frontier of broken dreams and crushed souls in the hopes of doing something worth doing. The guitar comes through fighting aggressively against contentment and comfort, creating something that is so beautiful it hurts.
But when Cory McAbee comes in singing, the plot of the album, and film, is moved forward. Coming through as more of a cowpunk than Sundance film director, The Billy Nayer Show sings about Mars as a safe haven for the dead spirits of the once optimistic, lists the names of men begotten by men in “Fredward” and distracts us from all the problems of the world by grunting “Party it’s a party come on party get retarded.”
With somewhat Dadaistic lyricism, “Stingray Sam” is the sort of thing that just is. It’s art for the sake of art, an exploration into technique with a developed sense of taste. It’s not for the pretentious. It’s for people who are open, people that don’t mind a little confusion, for people who ask, “Why?” instead of, “What?”