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Man? Or Astro-Man returns from the ether 

Man? Or Astro-Man Ten years later, the sci-fi punks pick up where they left off

Like a fiery comet from the farthest reaches of space, Man? Or Astro-Man crash-landed on earth near Auburn, Ala., in 1992. The band's arrival was followed by a string of countless 7-inches and albums of instrumental surf rock kerrrang and reverb that challenged the indie rock world with a dose of punk science fiction. The calamitous live shows often ended with bassist Rob DelBueno (aka Coco the Electronic Monkey Wizard) plowing through audiences atop a flaming big wheel, or perpetrating other such acts of life-threatening entertainment. But by 2002, burn-out got the best the members, and the group played its final show at Echo Lounge on New Year's Eve.

After lying dormant for 10 years, Man? or Astro-Man is back, but according to DelBueno, it's not a reunion at all. "From earth's view, it looks like we went away," he says, comparing the group to the ever-expanding universe. "Man? or Astro-Man started as a tiny speck which expanded so much that the frequency of shows grew exponentially farther apart to where it seemed like we were off the radar completely. But like many people theorize, the universe is cyclical and will eventually contract and implode upon itself."

The band's core lineup of DelBueno, drummer Brian Teasley (Birdstuff), and guitarist Brian Causey (Star Crunch) is joined by a fourth "lab-created" member that they prefer not to mention. "We don't speak about the clones," DelBueno says. "The technology wasn't ready, and as you can see, they haven't been filling in during our absence. You can draw your own conclusions." DelBueno also remains tight-lipped about new recordings or anything else the group has in store.

Man? Or Astro-man went out on a high note in '02 as the songs on the last album, Spectrum of Infinite Scale (Touch & Go), moved in a more experimental direction. But the group stayed true to its trajectory, which makes its return all the more engaging. "We never took a steep nosedive into lameness, as a lot of bands who do this sort of thing do," DelBueno says. The return only ups the stakes, but they're not worried. "If it sucks, that's OK," he adds. "In the vacuum of space, no one can hear you suck."

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