There have already been loads of albums about the end of the world. Muse's Absolution, The Crimea's Secrets of the Witching Hour...um...
Okay, I'll start again. There have already been at least two albums about the end of the world, but what makes An Island Called Earth (the debut album from London-based trio Emperor Yes) different is the fact that the world actually doesn't end on this record. Sure, awesome opening track The End of the World insists that we're about to bear witness to our planet's final hour...
...but the lyrics of Astronauts ("the planet had been rescued by two men in white spacesuits!") make it clear that humanity manages to dodge the bullet on this occasion. It's more Armageddon than Dr. Strangelove; the world was going to end, but we got our shit together like a group of bees boiling a wasp* and we lived to fight another day.
Here's the weird thing, though: Astronauts is only the sixth track on this album. It is followed by another six tracks, which means that the averted apocalypse is only half the story here.
And Act 2 is a bittersweet listen indeed. Once the spacemen have sorted everything out, EY's thoughts turn to the future, and they realise rather quickly that those heroic astronauts only delayed the inevitable. By hook or by crook, the world is guaranteed to end eventually, and when the sun finally does explode, humanity's only hope will be finding a new planet to live on. This isn't particularly likely, as the band point out in Carl Sagan:
"Carl Sagan calculated [that] if you were randomly inserted in the universe, the chances that you'd be on a planet would be less than one in a billion trillion. Trillion!"
Songs like Carl Sagan and Intergalactic Quarantine remind us that Earth is a very remote island indeed, and humanity's chances of locating and - more importantly - reaching another habitable planet before dying out are, to all intents and purposes, non-existent.
Still, the album ends on a rather hopeful note; the song Fishes points out that, while fish have no choice but to live in the ocean, we humans are far more flexible and far more capable than our piscine pals. Many of the songs that make up An Island Called Earth suggest that animals may be more savvy than we think**, but at the very end, Emperor Yes suggest that humans are the only ones who really have a chance of outliving the planet. To do that, we'll have to learn from the animal kingdom and, crucially, work out how to build spaceships that are capable of travelling at the speed of light.
I'm done talking now. Go and get started on those spaceships.
*This is the metaphor used in the song Wasps to describe people coming together to defeat a common enemy.
**See Cosmic Cat, Wasps, The End of the World, Mirror, and possibly Monkey King, although goodness knows what that last one is really about.