Thursday, February 26, 2009

Gold Soundz: Spacemen 3

Contributor Mike Bailey enjoys talking about records from yesteryear -- the 70's, 80's and 90's -- that influenced what's happening today. Thus, Gold Soundz was born. (Props to Pavement for the perfect name.) In this piece, Bailey takes a different seminal indie record every week and examines its significance and impact on the present.

Spacemen 3: Recurring

(Fire/BMG 1991)

"Taking drugs to make music to take drugs to..."

Two lads from Rugby, England, Jason Pierce and Peter Kember (aka Sonic Boom) found common ground in two things; hallucinogenic drugs and the Velvet Underground. What resulted from that connection was Spacemen 3. The duo used a minimalist ethic and built songs around Pierce's droned guitar sounds and Sonic Boom's electronic experimentations. They were students of any music that stretched boundaries, influenced by not only the Velvets, but also the MC5, the Silver Apples, Neu!, the Beach Boys, and Muddy Waters.

Spacemen 3 pulled very few punches. Many of their albums, like 1987's The Perfect Prescription, can be diagnosed by simply glancing at its track listing; "Take Me to the Other Side", "Ecstasy Symphony/Transparent Radiation (Flashback)", "Come Down Easy". The music is meant as an aural acid trip - floating through lows, pounding through highs.

"For all the fucked up children in this world, we give you Spacemen 3..."

For the rest of Mike Bailey's take on Recurring and the video for "Big City," continue reading.

Recurring is the bands fourth and final album. Many would not pick it as a classic, but not only is it a fine album; it’s a chance to see a band imploding. Tensions were so high that the tracks written by Sonic Boom were estranged from the Pierce-penned tunes. Five songs each separated by a fantastic cover of Mudhoney's "When Tomorrow Hits" (Mudhoney would in turn cover Spacemen's "Revolution").

What I find enjoyable about this record are the disparate elements that started to creep in and influence their minimalist approach. Both members contribute strong material. Sonic Boom's "Big City" is one of the album highlights, as are the sparser "Why Couldn't I See" and "Just to See You Smile". Pierce countered with the standout "Hypnotized" (one of my all time favorite Spacemen 3 tracks) and a few other gems. Overall, Pierce’s half of the record is more consistent, but my favorite moment is still the albums divider, the Mudhoney cover. "When Tomorrow Hits" is the best Spacemen 3 song not written by Spacemen 3.

Jason Pierce carried on the mind-altering, wall-of-sound tradition with Spiritualized while Sonic Boom took a much more experimental, low-key route with his Experimental Audio Research. But all of Spacemen 3's records would be a major influence on both the shoegazers and the post-rock movement. You can draw a direct line from Spacemen 3 to My Bloody Valentine, Mogwai, and Brightblack Morning Light. And I think the guys in Deerhunter might just have some Spacemen 3 in their record collections...

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