Top 40 Before 40 Rock Artists - #19 - Bad Astronaut

Bad Astronaut is a great band that you have likely never heard of, and the crazy thing is that this band was a side project of Lagwagon frontman Joey Cape that just happened to grow legs.

Since I first listened to their first album Acrophobe, I was hooked. I also thought it was quite a clever reference to say that you are a band called Bad Astronaut and have your first album titled after the fear of heights.

When I looked into it deeper, I seemed to get the impression that it was all a metaphor for the fear of success and reaching uncharted heights as a successful musician/band. The astronaut really was more like a rockstar, and that also made me think, “Wow, that’s pretty cool.” 

Lagwagon, Cape’s full-time band, has been a  pretty successful indie punk band since the early 90’s, and whether they believe they need to stay independent to make sure they don’t implode, or whether they firmly believe that mainstream music kills creativity, it seems that Cape really wants listeners of Bad Astronaut to know that you don’t have to sell a million records or tour in stadiums to create some of the best music with a group of friends and be happy while doing it...even for a successful musician himself.

For those of you who are just joining this list at this point, let me give a quick summary below:

  • In my almost 40 years on this planet, I have had the great pleasure of listening to a lot of music that doesn't make it to the airwaves, and a lot of these bands are some of my absolute favorites.
  • You WILL see some Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame bands on the list too, but for the most part, you are likely going to disagree with this list almost entirely.
  • I am sharing this ranking so that you get some insight into some great bands you may have never heard before AND for a little bit of a personal challenge to myself to rank these bands.

With that said, let's get to #19 on my Top 40 List Before 40:

Bad Astronaut playing at the Center for the Arts in Eagle Rock, California, on July 10, 2010

By Nick Oliver - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

#19 - Bad Astronaut

Back in 2000, Cape decided that he wanted to record some songs that didn’t quite fit the Lagwagon catalog. Cape enlisted fellow Lagwagon member, Derrick Plourde to play drums, and a long-standing friendship that both had with Sugarcult lead guitarist, Marko DeSantis (a.k.a. Marko72), rounded out the band as DeSantis played bass.

These guys enlisted some other musicians to help create some studio music that was quite unlike what most punk or indie bands were creating at the time (or really even since).

The band got to work quickly, and what came out of the first year was a lot of recording sessions and a split EP (entitled War of the Worlds) with Armchair Martian where they covered each other’s songs.

Those sessions formed into the album called Acrophobe in 2001. Which, in my opinion, was quite a groundbreaking album for indie rock music at the time. 

They didn’t play many live shows as the point of this band was to just create music together, and then they would tour with their own bands respectively.

Bad Astronaut’s second album Houston, We Have A Drinking Problem might be one of my top 10 albums of all time. I will find out later this year exactly where it lands though. The song “The Passenger” is deeply heartbreaking. It feels like a song written about the 9/11 tragedy, but as far as I know, Cape has never come out and said as much. It is eerie and mesmerizing though.

In 2006, Plourde took his own life, and shortly after, Bad Astronaut released their 3rd and final album called Twelve Small Steps, One Giant Disappointment, and Cape was quoted saying that Bad Astronaut wouldn’t exist without Plourde.

This band created, what I would consider, a holy trinity of rock music, and their music hasn’t been outdated by any means. They are still better than 99% of all music you will hear in your lifetime.

They just released a brand new single called “Wide Awake” that was created to launch their new Bad Astronaut Universe box set. I highly recommend checking that out as well.

My goal for you is to know this band, listen to this band, and love this band as much as I do.

Bad Astronaut is a band that was cut short by tragedy, but that lives on with a lasting memory that doesn’t seem to fade or get dull with time.

Similar Artists That I Recommend That Didn't Make The Top 40:

Radiohead, Sunny Day Real Estate

<-- Check out #20 on this list or Check out #18 on this list → (Available Apr. 20, 2021)