I have a passion sweet Lord... and it just won't go away
we are dealing with here – and no other word will do – is a miracle.
The Spacemen 3, the band that had painted themselves into rock’s most
inescapable-looking corner, have done the full Houdini…
to this, their third, LP the S3 were of course something of a standing (or, in
their case, po-facedly seated) joke: dour bastards from Rugby, they seemed to
spend their spare time bleating that the increasingly prominent and popular Loop
had nicked that psychedelic artillery nightmare sound from them.
general reaction to this – “aaah, diddums” – was intensified by the
release last year of Loop’s mighty ‘Heaven’s End’. A record that left
the Spacies in the preposterous position of having to follow up someone
else’s LP! And yet (amazingly, and – considering the recent and
painfully disappointing Loop newie – with exquisite timing) Jason, Sonic and
Willie have pulled it off.
they’ve done it by the simple expedient of avoiding the Loophole altogether,
and digging up the courage, from God only knows where, to radically alter the
face of their own noise. From the very first note of ‘Honey’ you hear the
new Spacemen 3. Gone are the huge sonic assaults and the psychotic rounds of
guitar war(p)s. In their place is a tiny, tremulous thing of beauty, a flower
where there used to be a landmine.
is a music of stillness, quietness, whispers and sighs. It still throbs and
vibrates like the S3 of old but where that was the noise of the earth sundering
itself, it’s now the sound of a single proton pulsing, alone and unique. And,
dusted with Sonic ‘n’ Jason’s wistful, depressed vocals, it’s all rather
nearly said ‘religious’ and the lowing organ that stalks at least three of
these songs make that a lot less ludicrous than it might at first seem. I really
can’t imagine what the heaven or hell’s been going on in the Space station;
but the results are startling.
of the S3’s former style will find some comfort from the fact that two tracks
(their last single, the slightly nutty ‘Revolution’ and the seemingly
interminable instrumental, ‘Suicide’) do conjure up the old storm, but in
truth both merely serve to highlight the strange radiance of their newer
really didn’t think that Spacemen 3 had the bollocks to break the losers mould
that they’d volunteered themselves for, but ‘Playing With Fire’ has proved
me wildly wrong. It is a curious, brave, intriguing record, quite unlike
anything that you’re likely to hear elsewhere. And it’s no mere novelty;
more, I reckon, a minor triumph. (8 ½)
3 have kicked out the aimless jams, opted for colour, space and sensuality, and
come up with the last word in English psychedilia.
NME end of year round-up.
Burning In Heaven
Revolution, purity, love,
suicide, accuracy. These are the key words according to Spacemen 3. I consider
them eternally interesting words, don’t you? Let’s just leave them
there, pristine with potential, doing their own thing, not yet unrequited.
Spacemen 3 are perverse.
They can no longer deny it. “Playing With Fire”, an extraordinary record, is
the last thing we expected and very probably a work of warped genius. Either
that or a sly snidey joke. The first time I heard it, I thought it was a stream
of wafting hippy nonsense, as far removed from the slowburn ire of
“revolution” as you could get. Well, that’s not strictly true. The first
time I heard it, I thought it was groovy and far-out actually, cos Sonic Boon
had got me well off my pretty little head. This is Spacemen 3’s aim. To
“take” you “higher”. To blow away your Britishness. To loosen your
restraint. To turn your limbs to languor, your mind to motion. And so on.
Back home it sounded
crap. Opening a tin of cat food, or taking the bins out, it seemed as relevant
to the youth of today (ahem) as a church or a ballet. For a while. But the more
you return to it, the more you give it a chance late at night or use it as
Braille wallpaper, the greater the impression defines itself that this is not
three spoiled brats from Rugby impersonating the most gone American bands, but
something so self-confidently lazy and inscrutable as to be the real unreal
thing, an artefact pulsating with a knowledge of its own graceful strengths.
Spacemen 3 have taken a courageous gamble in giving us this hymnal hologram
instead of rocking out. They’ve done guitars before. Their earlier records are
great. But this one is a vortex of vacuums, a mirage, a (it had to come)
hallucinatory hypnosis, and as such is wilfully indulgent, defiantly grandiose.
You’ll smirk. Or you’ll kiss it. It’s up to you. Kill time or touch the
It’s all not so much a
cry for revolution, as for redemption. “Jesus dies for somebody’s
sins, Lord look at the state I’m in/Look alright but I’m f***ed
within/Can’t go through it all again.” Forgive us our trespasses, say
Spacemen 3, for we knew not what we did, we were high as kites. That the
plethora of religious entreaties here are down to Jason rather than Sonic is a
possibility. You’ll love them if you don’t hate them. Spacemen 3, a group
out of time, have now left Loop looking as astral and cosmic as a No 73 bus.
When “Revolution” does come storming in, the impact is more shattered
There are two other
orphaned elegies here which are as powerful as anything anyone’s put
out in months. “How Does It Feel” succeeds in conveying the world and its
wife through two sadly echoed notes. The crescendo, though, is “suicide”,
“both a soundtrack t the act and a tribute to the band.” Within seconds
it’s better than anything that band ever did. Impossible to describe,
this insistent whirl of fuzzy freaky flailing fluvial flirtation with
self-obliteration (well, nearly impossible to describe) is enough to make
you miss several trains. Correction: to hit several trains, pulpwards.
Spacemen 3 have chosen to tread softly through most of this record (passive
resistance?), but when they shriek, the pillars of convention look distinctly
shaky. “Playing With Fire” achieves its objectives in a magic roundabout
way. It is, I have decided at long last, a major coup.
“Lord Can You Hear
Me?” is their final question. I should think the old feller’s got it on full
Chris Roberts, Melody
say that Spacemen 3 are out on their own is just stating the obvious. On the
surface they emanate a kind of druggy indifference, the kind of thing that was
so rife in the mid 70s before punk, when rock groups rose above their station by
keeping their stack heels in good position. Back then they were stuck with
ridiculous clothes, playing an out-moded brand of glam rock that had been done
much better almost everywhere. Spacemen 3 don’t look like that and don’t
play like that. They are different.
anything, Spacemen 3 look like typical lads from your own street, nothing
special, probably seriously into comics and with a good knowledge of weird films
and strange records, but the secret is in their music. Having heard several of
their releases prior to this Fire LP, the thoughts of more trippy antics and
mesmerising lyrics didn’t become as inviting as it should have been. Playing
With Fire is different, though.
musical minimalism is there, the spoken prose and poems, the repetitive guitar
riffs, the organ on a rebound, it all goes to make Spacemen 3 quite alarmingly
different. Playing With Fire is a hypnotic trance, telling tales of being
dropped in and out of reality and invoking the kind of flickering pictures that
occur in so many of the best people’s nightmares.
any reference points are needed to persuade would-be astronauts that they should
sample these aliens’ brand of weightlessness, and discover the closest thing
to beatnik awareness since labelmates Blue Aeroplanes’ most evocative moment,
then here are a few. How about the sound of barrel-organ minimalism, Tom Waits
on high tech TV, Nico collapsed with machines breaking down, or the mellowest
and rarest 60s artefact plucked from obscurity? That’s just a small fraction
of what Spacemen 3 are getting at.
I said, just three guys with wild imaginations and all the usual stuff. Pretty
frightening really, it just kinda means that anyone out there could be capable
of doing the unexpected. Wow! Yeah… like wow!