Love Tractor: This Ain't No Outerspace Ship (1987)

Another fine if oft-overlooked jangly-guitar band from the 80s, Love Tractor never rose to the same heights as that other band from Athens, GA, but still had some worthy music (and continue to record intermittently today).  Their earliest work was almost entirely instrumental, but Outerspace sees them largely in vocal territory (admittedly not their strong suit, with falsetto vocals sometimes covering for less notable vocal stylings than, say, R.E.M. or the Connells).  The music varies from the typical jangly post-Byrds rock of that college radio era to more surf-guitar or soundtrack-ready understated songs, but also has a few striking highlights.

The album's clear stand-out is the simply phenomenal "Beatle Boots," where they tether their guitar sound and falsetto vocals to a killer hook, the singalong title something that stuck in my head on first listen and hasn't left me in 30 years.  It's a great song, one that makes you wish they'd written a few more of that caliber.  "Cartoon Kiddies" rocks a similar vibe, managing a comparably solid hook but a little more on the silly side, and "Small Town" is a modest, poppy little ditty.

The rest is a bit more hit and miss.  There are a few nice mostly-instrumental tracks, throwbacks to their earlier work, like the mid-tempo "Chili Part Two" and the treble-crazy "Rudolf Nureyev" (a bit reminiscent of their fantastic early non-hit "Fun To Be Happy," which became a mainstay of Feelies live sets).  They shake things up with the more electric, rocking "Party Train (which doesn't really work) and the meandering, extended instrumental "We All Loved Each Other So Much," but the album works best when they stay in their sweet spot.

1989's follow-up Themes From Venus was more of a departure, the band stepping away from the standard treble jangle and more into varied post-punk guitar rock territory to better effect; it's a more interesting, confident album with more high points, but Outerspace is a solid midway between their surf-guitar instrumental jangle roots and their later indie rock explorations.

Here's an audio rip of "Beatle Boots":