Concept albums are rarely found in mainstream music today (unless you’re Coheed and Cambria). Indie music has many, though, and they’re often quirky and nerdy.
Enter Five Year Mission. A “Star Trek” tribute band from Indianapolis, Indiana. They’ve been making a splash in the convention scene for several years now. Their mission: to write a song for all 80 episodes of the original “Star Trek” TV series over the course of five albums. “Year Three,” which was released last fall, is their latest voyage.
This album continues to display the band’s diverse influences. No song sounds quite the same. Some seem like they could’ve been recorded in the 1960s when the original “Star Trek” aired; some sound like modern rock anthems. The lyrics are also written from many different characters’ perspectives, although this album features a few more narrations by guest stars (Zefram Cochrane in “Metamorphosis,” a follower of Vaal in “The Apple,” and even the Tribbles in “Trouble with Tribbles”). The themes have as wide a range as the episodes that inspired them: “The Apple” speaks of spiritual awakening; “A Piece of the Action” is about righting wrongs; and “Obsession” talks about the dangers of, well, the title. The album includes ballads, like the fan favorite “The Immunity Syndrome,” and crowd-rousing songs like “The Doomsday Machine.” This is all thanks to each member selecting episodes to write songs about, so there are five creative minds at work.
While some songs are thoughtful meditations (“The Apple”) or heart-wrenching ballads (“The Immunity Syndrome”), many are tongue-in-cheek funny (“The Gamesters of Triskellion”). Five Year Mission is known for their great sense of humor, and their jokes certainly come across as fanboys taking good-natured jabs at their favorite show. One of the funniest songs is “I, Mudd,” a song written from the points of view of Harry Mudd and his wife. They berate each other throughout, especially in the energetic chorus. However, “Year Three” is overall a bit more serious than “Year One” or “Year Two.”
While the album is certainly written by Trekkers for Trekkers, some might be disappointed by a few missed references. “Mirror Mirror,” while one of the album’s most memorable songs, makes no mention of Spock’s famous “evil beard.” One would think there was huge comic potential there. “Journey to Babel” is written from the perspective of McCoy and only makes oblique references to Spock and Sarak, who were a focus of the episode. “Wolf in the Fold” sounds like a country song, but it’s only 90 seconds long and ends abruptly with a line about Scotty killing a hooker. The rest of the episode—the investigation, Scotty’s trial, Redjac—are all omitted. Was the song cut short for time? Did the band have trouble writing lyrics for it?
Regardless, Five Year Mission continues to “explore strange new worlds” in their musical musings. “Year Three” may not have as many memorable songs, but it’s still a solid album.
Their mission will take longer than five years, though. Fans may have to wait until 2016 for their next release. Several members are in other bands (like Shake-Ups in Ponyville, a “My Little Pony” tribute band—seriously) or are busy with their day jobs (one of them runs Hero House, a comic shop in Indianapolis). But the band won’t leave them hanging. According to band member Noah Butler, they’re working on an EP for the infamous episode, “Spock’s Brain.” In fact, every member of the quintet will write not one, but two songs for the episode! And then a new song will be written for the album featuring it.
That’s eleven songs for the worst episode of the original series! They may bite their tongues with them planted in their cheeks that long.
Until then, enjoy their newest album and the ones before it. Or check out one of their shows.
Here’s their website.