Monday, August 6, 2007

[097] Ladies And Gentlemen
We Are Floating In Space

Album: Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space
Artist: Spiritualized
Release Date: June 1997
Label: Dedicated/Arista
Producer: J. Spaceman, with John Coxon

"I will love you ‘til I die
And I will love you all the time
So please put your sweet hand in mine
And float in space; And drift in time
All my time until I die
We’ll float in space just you and I"
- from the title track

Spiritualized are usually called a space-rock band; their druggy atmosphere and languid pace can conjure the feeling of being in orbit. It seems only right that they’d have an album entitled Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space, and that leaves no doubt to why frontman J. Spaceman (aka Jason Pierce) was seen posing in an astronaut suit throughout 1997. But here’s the secret – Pierce is an Earth-bound Rock & Roll believer. Much like T. Rex’s Marc Bolan before him, he is one of the few “alternative” rock figures to hold onto the Blues as Rock’s foundation; on Ladies & Gents, he crosses the pond for a journey through the history of American music, mixing his broken-hearted astro-blues with Jazz of all kinds, Gospel, 50’s Rock & Roll and Pop, and orchestral arrangements that at times recall classic vocalists like Frank Sinatra. If you’re really listening, you’ll hear exactly what’s there – at the mid-point between Robert Johnson and Pink Floyd, a British band is playing like E.T. while keeping both feet on the terra firma, painting a traditional American masterpiece.

All the instruments are tangible. All the heavy lifting is done by real people. There is a minimum of future music, whether synthesizer or drum programming. Pierce arranges his Rock music on a philharmonic level, and he fills his orchestra pit with sounds and instruments from a romantic past, from the post-war innocence of the 40’s & 50’s, to the Summer of Love, to the sexy excess of the 70’s. The thrilling chaos of “Electricity” would sound like Sonic Youth if the underpinnings weren’t totally “Wipeout” and “96 Tears”. “Stay With Me” could be on Pet Sounds if it sobered up. On the opening title track, Pierce sings around himself, invoking Elvis Presley's “Can't Help Falling In Love” while strings enable his musical liftoff. It’s then pushed aside by the massive “Come Together”, throwing snarling Stooges guitars and an equally Iggy vocal against a squall of Jazz & Soul horns, Blues harmonica, and a Gospel choir that lands the song not far from Primal Scream’s song of the same name. This rise and fall of bombast continues throughout the album, crashing church organ (“Broken Heart”) into plinking piano (“All My Thoughts”), laying otherworldly theremin (“Electricity”) on top of wobbly pedal steel guitar (everywhere).

“All My Thoughts” bring the waves within itself, the calm before the freeform Jazz storm; wash, rinse, repeat, and on through the album. Ornette Coleman-like wails are dumped on the all-crescendo “The Individual”, smoothing out for the exquisite “Broken Heart”; “No God Only Religion” flares it all up again, talked down by the lullaby “Cool Waves”. Epic closer "Cop Shoot Cop..." clocks in at a patience-testing seventeen minutes. At first, it's seemingly content to be a bluesy dirge, but after six minutes, the pile-on starts, disintegrating into structureless noise by the eight minute mark, and holding for four full minutes. In case you survive re-entry, they ride a jazz piano loop and some sublime, foggy trumpet back to Earth, and realize they never really left. Maybe it was all the drugs and broken hearts, but it was still a hell of a journey.

01. “Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space”
02. “Come Together”
03. “I Think I’m In Love”
04. “All My Thoughts”
05. “Stay With Me”
06. “Electricity”
07. “Home Of The Brave”
08. “The Individual”
09. “Broken Heart”
10. “No God Only Religion”
11. “Cool Waves”
12. “Cop Shoot Cop…”

"Come Together" [video]

- BONUS: "Electricity" [video]

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