Last April, I ranked the top 10 geek rock artists. While a lot of you enjoyed the list, a sizeable number near as much demanded that I create a similar rundown of the top 10 sci-fi-inspired mainstream rock albums. I said I wasn’t highly qualified to rate the whole of rock canon for relative skiffy-ness. So I called in an expert; one of those top 10 geek rockers I mentioned.
John Anealio is a music teacher by day, but divides his nights between duties as Wired’s GeekDad Guitar Teacher, co-host of the awesome Functional Nerds podcast, and the aforementioned geek rock career. John’s latest album, Laser Zombie Robot Love, was released Sept. 18 (you can get all 20 nerdtastic tracks for just $5).
Without further ado, the 10 best sci-fi inspired rock albums of all time.
10. Styx - Kilroy Was Here
John says: Two words: “Mr. Roboto”. Admittedly, this isn’t a great album, but you have to admire (or question the sanity) of a band, who at the height of their commercial success released a rock opera about a robot.
Jay says: For all it’s (ahem) Styx-iness, this is the album that made “domo arrigato” a household catchphrase. You don’t get more geek cred than that.
9. Roswell Six - Terra Incognita: Beyond The Horizon
John says: Author Kevin J. Anderson is a long time progressive rock fan. This album is based on his fantasy novel The Edge of the World. Anderson collaborated with keyboardist Erik Norlander to create this progressive-metal gem.
Jay says: The dude who wrote the official backstory of every side character in the Mos Eisley Cantina and Jabba’s Palace, to say nothing of the non-Boba Fett bounty hunters from Empire Strikes Back, has unassailable geek cred. That he used it to make a cult sci-fi synth-rock opera is pretty cool, too.
8. Marian Call - Got To Fly
John says: Predictably, this list is heavy on progressive rock and metal. This brilliant folk-pop gem by Alaskan songstress featuring songs inspired by Firefly and Battlestar Galactica is a nice counterpoint to the wheedily wheedily guitars.
Jay says: Call is one of those artists who effectively blurs the line between filk and muggle music, as her coffee-shop folk rock is so catchy and evocative the mundanes won’t even notice she’s got a crush on Mal Reynolds. Also, any track that uses a typewriter as a viable percussion instrument is nerd-worthy in its own right.
7. Iron Maiden - Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
John says: While Iron Maiden may be the quintessential heavy metal band, many of their albums have strong progressive rock leanings. In addition to the epic length and odd time signatures of some of the tunes, the album title and lyrics were inspired by Orson Scott Card’s Seventh Son.
Jay says: “Can I Play With Madness?” Yes, yes you can.
6. David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust
John says: If you’re talking about rock music and science fiction, then you have to start with Ziggy Stardust. Ahead of its time, most of the songs on the album still sound fresh today.
Jay says: First, you’re really a music geek when you know the full title of this album is The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. If that isn’t an ode to 1950s sci-fi cinema, I don’t know what is. Second, when The Goblin King goes out of his way to make a skiffy album, you just bow and say thank you.