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The Album: Reviews

Here's all the reviews we've had so far:

Lauren Davis, io9
Dinosaur Planet is the space dinosaurs vs. giant robots rock opera you’ve been waiting for

If you were to ask me to describe my perfect rock opera, it would definitely have dinosaurs that had recently returned from space to take over the Earth. And giant robots who have kept the dinosaurs as their warrior slaves? A must. The artwork by Scary Go Round and Bad Machinery creator John Allison is just gravy.

Dinosaur Planet is a concept album by MJ Hibbett & The Validators, which reveals that, instead of going extinct, dinosaurs actually escaped into space. Unfortunately for them, they were enslaved by a race of giant robots. And unfortunately for us, they're back to reclaim their former home. It's nice to see that T-Rex's arms haven't grown at all in 65 million years.


Chris Sims, Comics Alliance
'Dinosaur Planet' Is The Greatest Story (About Space-Faring Dinosaurs) Ever Told (In a Rock Opera)

In the entire history of the universe, there have been few things more awesome than dinosaurs. Seriously, giant carnivorous monsters that occasionally had hilariously tiny arms? The only thing that could make them any better is if they were actually a race of ruthless space conquerors.

Which is, of course, the premise of Dinosaur Planet, a musical concept album by the UK's MJ Hibbett and the Validators that tells the story of the dinosaurs' invasion of England after 65 million years of conquering the stars as the kidnapped warriors of a race of giant robots. It's a hilarious concept album, and you can check it out in a video featuring the art of Scary Go Round and Bad Machinery creator John Allison right now!

According to Hibbett's liner notes, the idea for the album had its roots in the late '80s, when he was living with Doctor Neil, who is featured on the album as the voice of the Iguanadon. Neil was apparently a fan of cheap sci-fi paperbacks, which led to the two friends coining the term "dinosaur planet" as a shorthand for the entire genre. As the years went by, the simple concept turned into an idea for a musical, and thus the album was born.

The key idea here -- along the same lines of a recent plot thread in the always-amazing Adventures of Dr. McNinja -- is that the dinosaurs didn't go extinct, but rather launched themselves into space in a massive starship. And really, that's the perfect explanation for the crater and layer of iridium in the geologic record thought to be a product of the Cretatcous-Tertiary Extinction Event. It just makes sense.

Admittedly, it doesn't quite explain why the dinosaurs talk like pirates, but don't worry: Track 19 covers that question.

But if that premise and the video above aren't enough to convince you, don't worry: You can stream the entire album and find out all the twists and turns of the Great Space Dinosaur War and the moving love story within for free.

It's well worth picking up the full album, and while you can grab a digital copy above, I'd definitely recommend getting the hard copy, which features John Allison's awesome illustrations of the saga in the liner notes. It'll set you back £10 (or around $16 here in the good ol' U.S. of A.), but in a pretty cool move, that price includes shipping to anywhere in the world. As Hibbet says, "I don't see why you should pay more depending on where in the world you've ended up."

Which is a good thing. The entire world needs pop songs about space dinosaur romance -- now more than ever!


Seb Patrick, Den Of Geek
Largely known in geek circles for 2004's "Hey Hey 16K", a viral hit in the days when it actually took effort to make a viral hit, and more recently an ode to a certain bearded Glycon-bothering comics writer titled "The Ballad of Alan Moore", London-via-Leicester's MJ Hibbett and his band The Validators have ploughed a distinctive nerd-folk-indie furrow for a while now. But, with this rock-opera concept album based on a two-man Edinburgh Festival show, they might just have hit their apex.

Dinosaur Planet is a ridiculous, charming, delightful oddity. Part concept album, part full-cast audio drama, it's kind of like what might have happened if Jeff Wayne had been a mild-mannered Englishman rather than a bombastic New Yorker. It tells the story of the Earth, or more specifically, Norfolk, being invaded by armour-wearing dinosaurs from space. Armour-wearing dinosaurs from space who talk like pirates. Yep. It's that kind of story, and one that, across its many twists and turns also takes in giant evil robots, inter-species romance, alternative theories on the Cretaceous-Tertiary event, and literature searches. The whole thing is completely and utterly ludicrous, and yet it's held together by its own unique sensibility of logic.

What really drives the album is a distinctly British sense of humour, you can draw a line from this right back through Hitchhiker's to Python that blends the surreal with the mundane (Its world is one where the first stand of the human race against the invading dinosaurs happens in Peterborough). But, there's also some great humour drawn from situations, particularly the news reporter marvelling at the majesty of the dinosaurs even as they're eating her, and language, with some nice recurring gags ("Meanwhile, in the charming Lincolnshire market town of Stamford, in Linconshire..."). And there's a Transformers joke to die for.

While the majority of the songs are performed by The Validators themselves, and Hibbett plays the notional lead character Terence Truelove, there are guest voices aplenty in both the musical and theatrical sections, although it's fair to say the motley assortment of friends, bandmates and fellow cult figures are variable in their acting ability. Standouts, though, include Claire Gibb in the pivotal role of General Muriel Truelove (aka Terry's mum), while Brighton-based singer-songwriter Chris TT hams it up in the extreme as Terry's granddad. Even the weaker performances generally add to the charm rather than detract from it, however, and besides, any deficiencies in this area are more than made up for by some genuinely strong, expensive-sounding production and FX.

Musically, on the whole it's in keeping with the Validators' usual style, so it's guitar-pop-with-added-violin in the main, very C86 indie at times, and Helen Love and Half Man Half Biscuit are notable touchstones on occasion. There will doubtless be those who find the overriding twee-ness of it all a bit wearying over the length of a full album, but even those people surely can't help but admit how infectiously catchy most of it is. And it knows when to swap the self-conscious gentleness for bombast, as evidenced by the telling of each of the story's two climactic battles, not to mention the punchy rock number that accompanies the arrival of The Giant Robots (as they put it, "Capital T and G and R").

In the end, though, despite several laugh-out-loud moments, it's an inherent charm and likeability that gives this record most of its appeal. And as silly as the whole thing is, this is, after all, an album that features space-faring dinosaurs dancing a hornpipe in Norfolk. The epic finale, with scattered plot nuggets tied together in delightfully clever fashion, is surprisingly and genuinely gripping. So much so that the typically B-movie tease at the end of a possible sequel is positively welcome.


David Hepworth, The Word
Well this is different. Unless, that is, you've already come across a dramatised musical account of how Norwich, Peterborough, Stamford and other less celebrated communities in the east of England came under attack form dinosaurs from space. Quatermass-style commenntary, undergraduate spoof, Wurzels singalong, reflections on the changing nature of scientific research - by the end of its 33 tracks just about everything has been stirred into the pot. You have to admire their nerve.


Mike, Norman Records
Well, it's not every day you hear an album like this one!! What MJ Hibbert and his Validators have done this time is to create a 50-minute full-cast rock opera in which the earth is invaded by dinosaurs. It's very silly and very ambitious, with a Douglas Adams-esque streak of knowing silliness running throughout. The album is split between radio play-style dialogue that reminds me of listening to Radio 4 as a child, and indie pop songs which are leaning towards the twee side of things. Hibbett and co have clearly put a lot of time and effort into this piece and there's an impressive cast offering their vocal talents including the likes of Chris T-T and Phil Wilson. There's loads of plot twists (it'd take me the length of this review just to talk you through the narrative - there's 29 tracks!) and not-so-subtle cultural references and the whole thing is delivered with tongue firmly in cheek. That's nearly an hour of very British comedy indie pop with dinosaurs and giant robots and a totally enthusiastic and unironic sense of its own ridiculousness. If you like stuff on labels like Fika and WeePOP!, I'm pretty certain you will like this record too.


Calvin Baxter, SFX Magazine
Thirty-four years on from the original LP, the musical version of The War Of The Worlds is still filling giant arenas. The chances of this indie-band take on the SF rock opera duplicating that success seem slim, but you never know...

Over the course of 33 tracks, alternative types MJ Hibbett & The Validators recount the tale of an invasion of England by violence-loving dinosaurs from space (they didn't really die out, y'see - they simply legged it to another planet). As if that wasn't bad enough, then the Giant Robots turn up…

The writing has a self-aware edge to it, and mines much of its humour from well-observed mockery of SF tropes, as well as the bathos inherent in staging epic events in unimpressive British towns - "The Battle Of Peterborough" will either delight or appall residents of the Cambridgeshire town. Some hilarious mental images are painted along the way, such as dinosaurs dancing the hornpipe (because, as one song explains, "Dinosaurs Talk Like Pirates"). Short dramatic sections link the songs; the acting here isn't exactly Oscar standard, but that does help to build a B-movie vibe.

True, it's not exactly the greatest story ever told, and the joke begins to wear a little thin towards the end; one suspects Dinosaur Planet might work better in a gig environment, after sinking a couple of pints, than as a solo listening experience. But MJ Hibbett and co certainly top Jeff Wayne when it comes to laughs and low-fi charm.


Cameron Bray, We Are Unseen
This shall not be a typical album review, for Dinosaur Planet is not a typical album. MJ Hibbett & The Validators tell the story of the return of the dinosaurs, the rise of Giant Robots and the war that ensues. The album does draw some influence from Jeff Wayne; the narrative's opening line 'No-one would have believed in the early years of the 21st Century that the end of the world would have its beginnings in Norwich' being a direct nod to the opening line of Wayne's magnum opus, his Musical Version of The War of The Worlds (which is also a great album). I shall not talk about the album in great detail, as I don't want to spoil the story line.

The story is extremely well written, blending humour with intricate characterisation. Dinosaur Planet has been expertly put together and much credit must be awarded to the band, who not only provide believable characters but are lovely to listen to sing. The album is a very light-hearted romp through a myriad of humorous musical numbers that, overall, have an indie-folk sound. Each song on the album, however, has its own subtle distinctions in sound, from techno in We Are The Giant Robots, to sea shanty in Dinosaurs Talk Like Pirates.

The writing is excellent, engaging and entertaining, whether its 'You're a dinosaur/ I'm a General' from the interspecies love song Strangely Attractive or 'We want to be your friends/ Not your ingredients' in Please Don't Eat Us. As the titles of the songs indicate, the story is quite a light sci-fi so it definitely has a wide appeal. If anything, the 50-minute recording leaves the story feeling a little rushed but the ending of the album does indicate that this shall not be the last we hear from the Dinosaur Planet.


Lee White, Keep Pop Loud
As a long-time fan of both MJ Hibbett and dinosaurs I've been waiting to hear this album for a fair while. Yet for some reason when it first arrived I was slightly nervous about listening to it. What if it didn't live up to my expectations? What if there wasn't any tunes, and instead it was all story? Well, I'd need not have worried.

It is GRATE!

The tale starts, as you might not expect, in Norwich. And, locations aside, follows brilliantly the beats of all great alien invasion stories. Done with heart and direct reference to its influences Dinosaur Planet never slips unknowingly into cliché. It revels in it's theme.. Wonderfully it at the same time creates it's own cannon, taking ideas and running with them throughout the entire story. For example we're told that 'Dinosaurs Talk Like Pirates' and presented with evidence to prove such. Rather than being a one line gag about their agape expressions this is becomes part of the Dinosaur Planet mythology as well as ensuring the different species sound different on tracks performed entirely by the voice cast.

In terms of songs too, there's plenty of highlights. 'Theme From Dinosaur Planet' is the obvious one, sounding excellent as a stand-alone single with a massive chorus and instant, novel memorability. On a personal note however, it is 'The Battle Of Peterborough' that begs for particular mention. With the full Validators ensemble (plus added bugle) and Hibbett's narration the city is expertly trashed. Not only by remarks about the wider country not caring (or even knowing about it's existence) but by an army of dinosaurs that flatten it. Well, flatten it more. Peterborough is already pretty flat.

Perhaps having lived in Peterborough is an advantage here (that could possibly be the only time that this sent ace has ever been written) but when is said about Queensgate shopping centre post-missile "It was nothing but a crater / A million pounds of improvements had been made" it's hard not to have a massive grin on yr face. (Strangely during the Battle it seems that the dinosaurs passage from March to Peterborough completely bypasses Whittlesey, which leads me to assume that the small market town that I come from completely escaped devastation).

As he does brilliantly, Hibbett also finds time for a little bit of wider social commentary. On 'Wither The War Room?' our General asks about the location of the large map of the country with all of the flashing lights. Her aide responds by informing her that it had been decided that this particular need of the military's could have been provided best by the private sector. "We've got an AA road atlas now".

There's not an awful lot more that I can say regarding the plot of Dinosaur Planet without giving it away. The fact is I've probably already given you too many of the punchlines. But suffice to say that as well as dinosaurs there's giant robots (also from space) and much death and destruction. With the completely contrasting themes that each of the dinosaurs and robots get (a nautical jig for the former, electro-tinged punk for the latter) you may guess there'll be conflict between Earth's two visitors and from 'Strangely Attractive' that there's some bizarre goings on. But that's as far as I need to go for now.

What is worth a mention briefly however is how the voice cast of Dinosaur Planet are simply excellent and that the production is top-notch. With the title track being aired at MJ Hibbett's acoustic sets as far back as 2007-ish this album has been a long time in gestation. But it's worth the wait and so much more. It's rare that you can hear an album as an artistic vision fully realised, but this is what Dinosaur Planet is.


Paul Maps, Joyzine
Dinosaur Planet is a 50 minute long rock opera about bazooka wielding dinosaurs from space invading the planet Earth. It features giant robots, gratuitous pirate accents and the complete and total destruction of Peterborough. AND it’s written and performed by indie-pop gent MJ Hibbett and a ensemble cast of his musical chums.

If after reading the above paragraph you’re not at least a little bit excited, might I suggest that you have somehow got lost on the internet superhighway and found yourself on the wrong website?

From its opening blast of ‘Theme from Dinosaur Planet’ to the its quite frankly ridiculous conclusion this album is a preposterous, comical and thoroughly silly delight.

Told through a mixture of songs, narrative and acted scenes, the storyline sees Earth come under attack from heavily armed dinosaurs from outer space. Outgunned and desperate, all seems lost for humanity, with mild-mannered scientist Terrence Truelove and his eccentric grandfather providing our only hope.

The sprightly lyrics tickle the listener throughout, peppered with nods to movie conventions as the dinosaurs rampage through the East Midlands and the jaunty twee-pop backing is sure to raise a smile amongst all but the hardest-hearted of listeners. There are plenty of twists along the way, with inter-special romance and intergalactic slavery amongst the themes touched upon, as well as, as far as I’m aware, the only ever song even written about undertaking an academic literature search.

If you’re like your music deep, philosophical and challenging then Dinosaur Planet probably isn’t the album for you. If, however, your inner child is still alive and kicking and looking for some fun, there are few better places to find it than here.


Kev W, Sounds XP
The music world is permanently full of questions. Why is there so little guitar music in the charts? Do the current generation of musicians have anything of merit to say? Who the hell is still buying the Adele album? Why has no one created a War Of The Worlds style indiepop musical narrative about giant space dinosaurs invading Norwich? While the rest of the media scratch their heads pondering the first three, the rest of us can sleep a little better knowing that MJ Hibbett & The Validators are here to blast through the mundane with this bonkers and inventive 'rock opera' concept album.

'Dinosaur Planet' is a notion that began several years ago and through tweaking, reinvention and a cast of thousands throwing ideas into the melting pot, the recorded version is completed, and it's done in some style. As if this oddball project wasn't mad enough already, it's peppered with laugh-out-load moments and genuinely interesting (not to mention barking mad) plot twists. Without giving too much of the story away, these murderous beasts spread west from Norwich, wreaking havoc on the country and killing the masses, who correctly note "it's a pretty bloody awesome way to die!". While the country's team of top scientists look for a way to defeat the marching monsters (at the Battle Of Peterborough) the mainstream media is more concerned with the disruption to the East Coast Mainline.

The acting is unlikely to win any Oscars, but clearly, this is hardy Shawshank Redemption and its ramshackle nature only adds to its charm. "When fighting Tyrannosaurus nuclear, Stegosaurus with bazooka the best we could have hoped for was a draw". This delightfully madcap and unmistakeably British comic storyline is just one reason to love this album, the songs, all short and sweet, are not here to pad things out, there are some wonderful witticisms and a lovely variety of styles and melodies that blend in perfectly as part of this herculean report, the title track in particular is a joy. Plus it's always handy to know that dinosaurs talk like pirates and can be defeated using spark plugs, right? 'Dinosaur Planet' is unlikely to be an album that you'll have stuck on repeat for the rest of the year, although it's without doubt good enough to demand repeat listens and will never fail to raise a smile. A heroic effort.


Sam, Sloucher
There's conceptual albums for all tastes. Styx gave us a dystopian future. Nine Inch Nails gave us the slow descent into madness of a person. Smashing Pumpkins gave us an esoteric trip through the mind of a rockstar having an identity crisis. MJ Hibbet & The Validators offer an audiobook / musical / concept album about Dinosaurs kicking our collective arses.

Dinosaur Planet is 33 tracks (real short ones, though) detailing in a very silly (but funny) way how well-armed and very, very peckish dinosaurs come 'round for a serving of Norwich human meat. Sounds icky, but if you want me to gross you out, well, pig skin is used for skin grafts and crackling. Enjoy your bag of Mr. Porkys.

Can't spoil the jokes, but in the style of a musical, they are very tied to the lyrics and sometimes they really get you going. Character wise, you've got a couple of funny ones, including an overbearing mother, a Red Shirt policeman and a Grampa who knew that his deranged writings were actually truth (but no one would listen).

There are a couple of funny English-heavy jokes. The whole Norwich setting lends itself to a couple of quick quips, there's some technobabble for the geeks (Extinction Level Event!) and there's some clever weapon-assignment to dinosaurs. I for one would give up all hope if a stegosaur with a bazooka had me on its sights. Screw Velocirraptors, they are overrated (especially in 'The Battle of Peterborough').

If you think Dinosaurs aren't enough and this album should be more sentai, well, there are robots. And no, Michael Bay, you can't sue them (although they are veering into some grey areas).

The music of Dinosaur Planet has range. You can go from the usual musical form, some twee (nothing wrong with that) and then some sea shanties for the ol' sea wolf in all our hearts. The end of the story is…well, let's just say it needs more Jon Pertwee. That is all. Dinosaurs, robots, some vintage sounding rock pop and inside jokes, if it sounds like your bag of Calvin approved awesomeness, check it out.

I did and I for one welcome our new reptilian overlords.


Unpeeled
If you bashed a load of primary school children on the head you would have my blessing and the genesis of this album. It's low concept, middle brow humour set to catchy music by people who are way too good and way too old for this kind of thing.

Trouble is... You'd defy an angry Polynesian god to do anything other than love something like ''Don't, Darren, Don't'', a sub Helen Love doing the twist with the honest half of The Levellers and you'd be a living definition of misanthropy if you didn't spunk a wry smile in the direction of ''Please Don't Eat Us'', something that all Boy Scouts learn to scream before being introduced to Kate Middleton.

IS IT ANY GOOD? Yes, there's no escaping the fact that ''Dinosaur Planet'' is an excellent piss-take of, oh, I dunno, ''War Of The Worlds'', but on my planet, MJ Hibbert & The Validators are better than Jeff Wayne.














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