Music Review: Who’s Landing in My Hangar?

For some reason, Human Switchboard has eluded me in that I had not previously heard their music until 2024. Despite reading good things about them, I was somehow under the impression they were much more of a New Wave synth rock outfit that played with a cold "AI" like detachment. I recently happened upon their first and only album Who's Landing in My Hangar? The 1981 album displays not only their vast versatility, but also the band’s command to cast moods across the record, along with expressing a spillway of emotions within the songs themselves.  While their sound touches upon street rock, art punk, soul, garage, and power-pop, they are ultimately singular, complex, and uncategorizable. In other words, despite the genre hopscotching, they retain their consistent character across the record.  Further, one of their innate abilities is their ability to make discontent flow seemingly. This ability could be said to be the highest fulfillment of the New Wave movement and its daring potential.

Myrna Marcarian is beyond convincing with her strident vocals and arresting keyboard playing. She is indeed a focal point who brought in an advanced pop awareness and humane presence that clashed and converged with the street level sensibility of Robert Pfeifer and the sparks and shards flying off his guitar.  He certainly knew his way around the guitar and the interplay with Marcarian’s Farfisa organ is an essential element to their amalgamated sound.  

Leading off is the majestic “(Say No to) Saturday’s Girl” that is almost a response song to Blondie’s “Sunday Girl” mixed in with some Lulu and Lesley Gore loveliness. The frantic “Who’s Landing in My Hangar?” features Myrna Marcarian’s pronounced organ as she takes it to the dissonant edge against the rush of Robert Pfeifer’s “New York Subway” spiraling guitar. “In This Town” is their Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra moment, albeit with lyrics expressing the cold indifference of the gritty city. In addition, their songs retain their insurgency, while capturing the ominous feelings of the unraveling Midwestern rustbelt at the dawn of the '80s. On side 2, Marcarian steps back up to take lead vocals on “I Can Walk Alone.” The sweeping song is a personal manifesto and declaration of fortitude set to an indelible melody.

Overall, they generate a record that both reflects and transcends their era and continues to endure. They were also the little band that got raved about by big acts like Elvis Costello, the Beastie Boys, and Kurt Cobain (how did he hear so many records in his short 27 years?).  Living up to the promise of New Wave is what sets this group and record apart from so many others. Consequently, Who's Landing in My Hangar? will reveal itself to the listener in its own time – even if it takes 42 years. - Ted (Downtown)

Who's Landing in My Hangar? on Freegal

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