Thomas Dolby — Aliens Ate My Buick

No one could accuse Thomas Dolby of doing the same thing over and over again. Starting with the weird Euro-atmosphere of “The Golden Age of Wireless,” moving into the very spare and beautiful “The Flat Earth,” and then, in 1988, releasing an album titled “Aliens Ate My Buick.”

Aliens Ate My Buick
The great pulp/sci-fi cover for Aliens Ate My Buick

When this came out in the spring of 1988, I was mostly buying CDs, and I got this on CD right away. It was a huge hit in our house, if nowhere else. It kicks off with a crazy romp of a song that has no equal in his previous work, “The Key to Her Ferrari.” It moves on to a cover of George Clinton’s “Hot Sauce,” something I never saw coming, and then rolls through some songs that are probably more in Dolby’s traditional ambit, like “Budapest by Blimp.” But holy cow, what a departure this was. And I loved it.

I especially loved the cover, such a great tribute to pulps or movie posters, very suited to the unlikely title. One of the sad things about CDs is that they shrink our experience with the music because they shrink the packaging, so that evocative painting actually looked bigger and better on the long box that CDs used to come in — but even then it was cropped. I kept that long box for years and years, when I kept very few others, just because I liked the art so much. Last year, I was browsing Deep Groove Records here in Phoenixville and tripped upon a vinyl copy of “Aliens.” Even though I already have it on pristine CD, I just had to have it for the cover alone. So while I’ve enjoyed this album for something like 32 years, I’ve only enjoyed this particular record for a year. It is some great Thomas Dolby, but it’s not like the other albums, at all.

Aliens Ate My Buick back cover
Apparently, they also set fire to his Buick?
Aliens Ate My Buick EMI Manhattan label
Labels don’t get much more ’80s than this — bold colored geometrics, bold/light type contrast. Yeah.

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