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56 Miles North of Pluto

The album cover.

56 Miles North of Pluto is the eighth studio album by Hop-Scotch, released on May 27, 1990 under Interscope. It is the band's first double album, with a concept influenced by space travel, and a fictional journey through the Solar System. The album did quite well in the market, reaching #1 for 5 weeks on the EastWest Album Top 10, before being dethroned by MC Hammer's album Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em. Despite not being so successful abroad, it was popular in the US college radio circuit, and is sometimes considered to be a founder album of alternative rock as it is known today.

Recorded at their own studio in Noble City, the album was designed to be epic in its scope, but at the same time something 'human', for instance detailing what the attraction of mystery and the unknown does to humans as a species. The lyrics explored a range of emotions, in the words of Jackson Doe, 'perhaps a bit fantastic... perhaps a bit real. Everyone can relate to at least something in here.'

According to Tommy Zion, the point of the album was 'to broaden our horizons slightly. We figured that playing the same music each time wouldn't be fun. So, we thought of an epic double album. All of our styles. There's some punk in there, some new wave, some all-out weirdness, I think we had some influences from 60s psychedelia... not to mention it's in space.' He also called it, '30 songs that make you think'.

The album launched six singles, and is approximately tied with Y2K for their highest selling album (approximately 1.5 million copies).

Writing and compositionEdit

Writing sessions for the album began in August 1989, shortly after the release of Hop-Scotch's previous album, Channel 69. The band were looking up in their scope, and released a number of demo tapes on their own record label, 'for studio use only'.

It was in fact Mark Garfield who suggested the name '56 Miles North of Pluto', as he had been listening to the B-52's, who have a song with a very similar name. Their previous album Off Earth had also been a major inspiration.

As Interscope had picked up a demo release of some of the songs that would be on the album, they offered to distribute it in the United States.

The music itself is based around a variety of themes, that somehow link in to the overarching plot of a journey in space. While not considered to be a traditional rock opera, many distinct characters are mentioned; among them Captain Acquavera, the formidable, if slightly clumsy captain of the spaceship, the two junior officers, Al (the navigation AI), and Mr. John, a rich man who heads a space mining corporation that has apparently sent them out to look for new sources of profit.

The band directed their own music videos, which were filmed primarily at Discovery Isle, in a farm that had been let to them for their use. The first single, and most successful, 'People Like Me', showed the band performing in an area which resembles the interior of a spaceship. Some of the music videos were animated, such as that for 'Sands of Time'. The music video for 'Transition' was filmed in the mountains of Northern California, during their trip to the United States in early 1991.

ArtworkEdit

The album artwork was designed by the Inzaghi brothers, and designed to look pixellated: it has a video-game-like depiction of outer space, with the craft in the middle, and the album's title written on the craft. The two discs had their own art, with the 'Outbound' disc being red and orange, and showing a left-pointing arrow, and the 'Homeward Bound' disc being lime and aqua, and showing a right-pointing arrow.

Musical stylesEdit

The album's musical styles were designed to be as expansive as possible, including many they never had used before. According to Jackson Doe, this is part of the reason they made a double album rather than just one disc.

Some styles used on the album include post-punk/new-wave ('Zodiac', 'You Are A Fool To Look'), neo-psychedelia ('Re-Wiring', '56 Miles North of Pluto'), glam rock ('Sands of Time', 'Botanical Frail'), hard rock ('Transition', 'Our Radio Broke', many live songs were heavier than their album counterparts), electronica ('299,792,458') and even a jazz-influenced song in the form of 'Dus Pankake'.

Some songs were left off the final version that were included in the bonus disc: 'We Got Lost Somewhere', and many appeared later on Leftovers: Part II and other rarities compilations.

ReleaseEdit

The album was promoted throughout Lovia, and in some stores on the American West Coast, however the bulk of its sales came from its success on alternative radio in the United States.

In 2014, a remastered version of the entire album was released, with an additional disc of 'leftover' songs. The European 1995 special edition also contains bonus tracks, namely the live versions of 'Sands of Time', 'Asteroid Belt', 'Zodiac' and 'Enough Is Never Enough'.

The total length of 2 discs is 124:48 (3xLP on vinyl), 166:33 (3 discs) on 2014 version, and the European version has a length of 142:56.

Track listingEdit

DISC 1: Outbound

No. Title Length
1. "Prologue"   0:54
2. "Sands of Time"   3:10
3. "Re-Wiring"   6:55
4. "Science Fact"   3:53
5. "Entre Des Mers"   2:42
6. "Down Life's River"   3:00
7. "People Like Me"   4:15
8. "Nebula Staircase"   2:29
9. "Gammaraycorp."   1:00
10. "56 Miles North of Pluto"   8:12
11. "You Are A Fool To Look"   2:36
12. "With Mine"   3:05
13. "And Finally"   2:14
14. "Otro Color"   7:22
15. "Transition"   5:14
Total length:
58:01

DISC 2: Homeward Bound

No. Title Length
16. "No Matter"   3:28
17. "Dus Pankake"   5:50
18. "So Long"   2:15
19. "Saturnine (I Think)"   8:44
20. "The Titular Epic"   6:03
21. "Our Radio Broke"   4:29
22. "Zodiac"   3:00
23. "It's All Tidy (The Distraction Song)"   2:26
24. "Asteroid Belt"   4:55
25. "299,792,458"   3:06
26. "Botanical Frail"   5:12
27. "Enough Is Never Enough"   4:19
28. "Captain Acquavera"   6:20
29. "Welcome Home"   4:44
30. "To Be Continued"   1:57
Total length:
66:47

DISC 3: We Got Lost Somewhere

This disc was only included on limited editions of the album, which also included a pin with the band's logo, and notes of an interview with the band. The disc contains B-sides, as well as a few tracks that were cut from the album.

No. Title Length
1. "Immovable"   5:55
2. "Shrine Machina"   4:56
3. "Needingly"   5:02
4. "When The Storm Comes"   6:10
5. "Ferroviaire"   3:37
6. "Garden Multibreaker"   2:58
7. "Fire Breath"   3:10
8. "Something Slight"   4:02
9. "(" (Officially, 'left bracket') 2:25
10. "Viewfinder"   5:29
Total length:
41:45

European version bonus disc

Contains 4 live songs.

No. Title Length
1. "Sands of Time (Live)" (European bonus track) 4:28
2. "Asteroid Belt (Live)" (European bonus track) 6:00
3. "Enough Is Never Enough (Live)" (European bonus track) 4:22
4. "Zodiac (Live)" (European bonus track) 3:18
Total length:
18:08

Vinyl (3xLP version)Edit

Side A: Earth to Ceres

No. Title Length
1. "Prologue"   0:54
2. "No Matter"   3:28
3. "People Like Me"   4:15
4. "Gammaraycorp."   1:00
5. "Transition"   5:14
Total length:
14:51

Side B: Ceres to the Oort Cloud

No. Title Length
6. "Sands of Time"   3:10
7. "Dus Pankake"   5:50
8. "It's All Tidy (The Distraction Song)"   2:26
9. "Captain Acquavera"   6:20
10. "56 Miles North of Pluto"   8:12
Total length:
25:58

Side C: To Alpha Centauri

No. Title Length
11. "Re-Wiring"   6:55
12. "Saturnine (I Think)"   8:44
13. "299,792,458"   3:06
14. "So Long"   2:15
15. "Our Radio Broke"   4:29
Total length:
25:29

Side D: In Orbit

No. Title Length
16. "Science Fact"   3:53
17. "You Are A Fool To Look"   2:36
18. "Otro Color"   7:22
19. "The Titular Epic"   6:03
20. "Botanical Frail"   5:12
Total length:
26:06

Side E: Across Saturn's Rings

No. Title Length
21. "Entre Des Mers"   2:42
22. "Down Life's River"   3:00
23. "Nebula Staircase"   2:29
24. "With Mine"   3:05
25. "Enough Is Never Enough"   4:19
Total length:
15:35

Side F: Re-Entry

No. Title Length
26. "And Finally"   2:14
27. "Zodiac"   3:00
28. "Asteroid Belt"   4:55
29. "Welcome Home"   4:44
30. "To Be Continued"   1:57
Total length:
16:50