The follow up to Nebula’s 2003 Liquor And Poker Music debut, Atomic Ritual, Apollo sees Nebula grow even further beyond the space rock elements brought into that album. Grounded in riffy grooves, Nebula lift off with the appropriately-titled intro, “Orbit,” leading into “Loose Cannon,” where the energy of the sun is conveyed with swirling psychedelics, fuzz rock progressions and ’70s-style swaggering vocals. At four minutes, it’s one of the album’s longest and catchiest songs, opening the gateway for the more stripped-down “Fever Frey,” a straight up rocker with a healthy dose of attitude. As Apollo rolls on, tracks like “Lightbringer,” “Future Days” (the Eastern-style intro of which alone makes the album worth tracking down) and “Ghost Ride” show off Nebula’s versatility. The songs are almost always guitar- based—that is, built around the riff—but a skill Nebula have developed over the course of their time together that many other desert rock bands neglect is not letting any one instrument overpower the others. The trio is in constant balance, and the production of veteran Daniel Rey (Ramones, Nashville Pussy, Masters Of Reality) makes them sound tighter than ever without losing the freewheeling aesthetic for which they are known. The second half of the record commences with the interlude “Trapezium Procession,” and brings back some of that Atomic Ritual spaciness. The sound effects-laden “Controlled,” with its anti-authoritarian social commentary, flows immediately into “The Eagle Has Landed,” an album highlight and perhaps some of the best songwriting Nebula have yet to showcase. Blown smooth by the production like waves in the desert, the song is a tunnel beckoning you to lose yourself inside, hypnotic and engrossing. Quick rocker “Fruit Of My Soul” and jazzy lounger “Decadent Garden,” both just under three minutes in length, pair together well and show off Nebula’s propensity for genre meshing. The band have a knack for sounding spontaneous and being deviously complicated at the same time. “Opiate Float > Orbit” which closes Apollo on literally the same note it opened, shows that really it’s all about flow with this California band. Led into with brief instrumental “Wired,” its reaching vocals and multiple guitar layers cap off an already exciting release in a way that says, “Hey, look what we can do with all this noise!” Records like this beg for summer to come along, for convertibles to be topless, and for the good times to roll. Never corny or content to be pigeonholed, Nebula push their creative boundaries further with each release, and Apollo certainly is no exception.