Sound Of Confusion

Front and back of original issue (taken from the first Fire CD reissue)
Front and back inlays of the Fire cassette reissue
Front, back and inners of the Taang! CD reissue

Personnel
Peter Gunn – Guitar Feedback
Jason – Guitar, Vocals
Bassman – Bass Guitar
N. Brooker – Percussion

Releases and Tracklistings
Released on Glass Records, July 1986. LP (GLALP018).

  1. Losing Touch With My Mind (Kember/Pierce)
  2. Hey Man (Kember/Pierce)
  3. Rollercoaster (Hall/Erikson)
  4. Mary Anne (Glen Campbell)
  5. Little Doll (J Osterberg)
  6. 2.35 (Kember/Pierce)
  7. O.D. Catastrophe (Kember/Pierce)

Reissued on Fire Records, September 1989. LP (REFIRE 5), some with photographic inner sheet. CD (REFIRE CD5). MC (REFIRE MC5). All have same tracklist as the original Glass release. Various other CD issues on Fire, with either jewel case or gatefold card sleeves, and with catalogue number changed to SFIRE015CD, SFIRE015CDE. Various other vinyl issues on Fire, some on 180 gram vinyl, some on white vinyl, and with catalogue number changed to FIRE015, SFIRE015.

Reissued on Taang! Records, September 1995. CD (TAANG!93). Tracklist as the original Glass release, plus:

  1. Walking With Jesus (Kember/Pierce)
  2. Rollercoaster (Hall/Erickson)
  3. Feel So Good (Kember/Pierce)
  4. 2.35 (Demo) (Kember/Pierce)

8 – 10 are from the Walkin’ With Jesus 12″. 11 is 2.35 (Version 2) from the Bomp! and Spage Age reissues of Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To – the Bomp! version had already been issued by this point.

Other Info
Recorded in Birmingham by Bob Lamb. Produced by Spacemen 3. Photography by Steve Evans. Sleeve Design by Spacemen 3. Special Thanks to Pat Fish for Faith and Encouragement. In Loving Memory of Christopher Fitzgerald.

Bob Lamb, formerly the drummer with the Steve Gibbons Band, set up a studio in Birmingham that he later named “Home Of The Hits”, mainly due to it being where UB40’s debut album Signing Off was recorded. He had also recorded early demos for Duran Duran. Spacemen 3 recorded and mixed Sound Of Confusion with Lamb over five days (Pete says the recording was due to start on 21 April in this fanzine interview). The band were not completely happy with Lamb’s approach: “He had no affinity with our type of music at all and was quite domineering”, Pete Kember recalled in issue two of the Spacemen 3 fanzine Outer Limits.

Spacemen 3 were already writing material that was gentler than the full-on assault of their early performances and compositions, with versions of ‘Come Down Easy’ and ‘That’s Just Fine’ being recorded as part of the January 1986 Northampton demos. However, a concious decision was made to use the first album as a way of rounding up the heavier songs the band had been writing and playing up to this point, leaving the way clear for more variety to be introduced on future releases. Although the live Spacemen 3 experience continued to focus mainly on head-on guitar assaults for the rest of their career, with ‘Rollercoaster’ and ‘Mary Anne’ invariably included in live sets, the band’s albums were never again so overloaded and one-note.

Pat Fish was asked to produce the album, but the tour schedule for The Jazz Butcher wouldn’t allow this. He did attend the first few days when the actual performances were recorded, but had to leave before the mixing began. His credit is an acknowledgement of the support he had given Spacemen 3 up to this point, including landing them their first record deal.

Christopher Fitzgerald was a friend of the band, and of Pete Kember in particular, who died of a drug overdose shortly before the album was recorded. As well as having this album dedicated to him, Chris was the inspiration for the song ‘Angel’ from the debut Sonic Boom album, Spectrum.

Reviews

Reviews of the original release from Sounds, Music Week, Next Big Thing, Bucketfull Of Brains, Forced Exposure, Glitterhouse (Germany), Rockerilla (Italy), Buscadero (Italy), Spex (Germany), and of the 1989 reissue by the NME and Melody Maker.
Text of Glitterhouse review

Die Spacemen 3 beweisen Mut und Geschick. So spielen die mit “Sound Of Confusion” eine Gitarren-LP ein, ohne das einer der beiden sogenannten ‘Gitarristen’ das Instrument auch nur leidlich spielen kann und kaschieren das so gekonnt, daß es wahr-scheinlich nicht mal jeóem suffällt.

Pfiffig wie sie sind, haben sie ihr bestes Stück, gleich an den Anfang gesetzt. “Losing Touch With My Mind” ist auch gleichzejtig das virtuoseste, schlieslich hat es ien 3-Ton-Riff.

Die anderen Songs laufen nach dem Gleichen Schema ab: Gesang und Bass bemühen sich etwas Melodie zu vermitteln und die Gitarren dreschen/larmen/kreischen unverändert drauflos. Sie zeigen sich von em einmal gefundenen Ton so begeistert, daß sie ihn ganz ohne Variation 5 Minuten durchhalten, so geschehen bei “Hey Man”.

Die 4 Coverversionen, “Rollercoaster” von den 13th Floor Elevators, “Little Doll” und “TV Eye” (das hier “O.D. Catastrophe” heißt) der Stooges ereilt das gleiche Schicksal – sie warden auf Minimal-Gitarrenlarm zuruckbeschnitten.

Da alle Songs auch in der Geschwindigkeit kaum variieren, die Briten bevorzugen das mittjere Tempo, hört sich zuviel zu gleich an.

Trotzdem hat dieser einfache Beat etwas, 39 Clock-ache hypnotische/halluzinogene Working entateht bei Dauerbeschuß. Ein lauter Livegig, komplett mit Acid-Lightshow und genugend magischen Krmutern zur Hand könnte eine Offenbarung sein. Und das Cover ist eins der besten der letzien Zeit.

Translation of Glitterhouse review

The Spacemen 3 show courage and skill. So they play a guitar LP with “Sound Of Confusion” without one of the two so-called ‘guitarists’ being able to play the instrument even reasonably well and hide it so skilfully that it probably won’t even suffice.

Smart as they are, they put their best piece right at the beginning. “Losing Touch With My Mind” is also the most virtuoso at the same time, after all, it has a 3-tone riff.

The other songs run according to the same pattern: vocals and bass try to convey some melody and the guitars continue to thrash / sound / screech unchanged. They are so enthusiastic about a tone they have found once that they hold it out for 5 minutes without any variation, as happened with “Hey Man”.

The 4 cover versions, “Rollercoaster” by the 13th Floor Elevators, “Little Doll” and “TV Eye” (which is called “O.D. Catastrophe”) of the Stooges suffer the same fate – they are cut back to minimal guitar noise.

Since all songs hardly vary in speed, the British prefer the medium tempo, it sounds too much too the same.

Nonetheless, there is something about this simple beat, 39 minute hypnotic/hallucinogenic working happens with constant fire. A loud live gig, complete with an acid light show and enough magical herbs to hand, could be a revelation. And the cover is one of the best in recent times.

Text of Rockerilla review

Sospetto vagamente che tutto quell che sappia di feedback oggi sia ‘condizionato’ dalla critica ad essere influenzato da Jesus & Mary Chain. Per fortuna che nessuno mette spots della Loreal nei propri album perché carebbe piacevole assistere ad analoghi equilibrismi perfettamente vacui con gli sputnik di “Emorroider” che per la verità sono pessimi. Questi Spacemen 3 sono fra le poche note positive di alcuni mesi in cui le uscite ‘psichedeliche’ vivono in tristeza ispirativa come ogni altro genere; che fra l’altro debbono essere prese in pacchetti sigillate ed edulcorate di poco significato e rapido consume. Padroni di coatti retaggi Stooges, questi ‘uomini spaziali’ ripescano una sadica e poco texana versione di “Rollercoaster” dal primo-Floor Elevators. Grandangolo sull’estenuante è una aberrazione cromatica tra le lenti azzurrate. “Losing Touch With My Mind” è l’iniziale collimatura a tempti brevi (1/30?) che permette di sondare un orgiastico magma sonorizzato.

Non è chiaro dove gli Spacemen 3 vogliano arrivare, ma sicuramente hanno capacità sufficientemente deviant (dalla norma) per colpire l’attenzione. Del resto è ancora assente all’appello quell Rivoluzionario Gruppo che facia saltar per aria questi due-tre anni come nitro-glicerina, partendo da ‘talenti’ spesso (guardiamoci bene) virtuali come i neutrino dirottati sotto al Monte Bianco da Zichichi.

Translation of Rockerilla review

(Note: Google Translate seems to have done a poorer job than usual on this one. You can just about get the meaning, but it would be nice to have a better translation. Any help from Italian-speaking readers would be very welcome.)

I vaguely suspect that everything I know of feedback today is ‘conditioned’ by critics to be influenced by Jesus & Mary Chain. Luckily no one puts Loreal spots on their albums because it would be nice to see similar perfectly empty acrobatics with the sputniks of “Emorroider” which are actually bad. These Spacemen 3 are among the few positive notes of a few months in which the ‘psychedelic’ releases live in inspirational sadness like any other genre; which, among other things, must be taken in sealed and sweetened packages of little significance and rapid consumption. Masters of forced Stooges legacies, these ‘space men’ have fished out a sadistic and un-Texan version of “Rollercoaster” from the first-Floor Elevators. Wide angle on the grueling is a chromatic aberration between the blued lenses. “Losing Touch With My Mind” is the initial collimation at short times (1/30?) That allows you to probe an orgiastic sonorized magma.

It is not clear where the Spacemen 3 want to arrive, but they certainly have sufficiently deviant capabilities (from the norm) to strike attention. After all, that Revolutionary Group that blows up these two or three years as nitro-glycerin, starting from often (let’s be careful) virtual ‘talents’ like the neutrinos hijacked under Mont Blanc by Zichichi is still absent from the appeal.

Text of Buscadero review

Suono violento, in alcuni momenti ossessivo, ma mai tedioso e monotono, per un ottimo album, anzi oserei dire “grande”, registrato oltre manica, a Birmingham, da un Gruppo del quale, al momento, ho ben poche notizie: gli Spacemen 3.

Non so chi sia e da dove provenga il batterista N. Brooker, chi si celi sotto gli pseudonimi di Jason (chitarrista e voce) e Bassman (chiaramente al basso), e neppure posso affermare con matematica cartezza che il leader Peter Gunn (altra chitarra) sia il bravissimo ex Inmates (dovrebbe?!?!… potrebbe?!?!…, ma personalmente nella foto di Gruppo non l’ho riconosciuto), posso però assicurarvi che “Sound Of Confusion” è un album lucido, istintivo e travolgente che regge benissimo il raffronto con la legendaria trilogia marchiata Stooges.

Ebbene si, signori miei, il suono e proprio quello, potente, corrosive ed allucinato all’esasperazione, però con un briciolo di psychedelia in più, ed i sette lunghi brani che compongono il vinile non lasciano ombre di dubbi, Mr. James Jewel Osterberg è “spiritual guidance” dell’intero lavoro.

I brani migliori, anzi meglio dire i più immediate, sono: “Losing Touch With My Mind” del binomio Kember/Pierce, coautori di un 4/7 dell’opera, in apertura di side one, granitica song contornata di psychedelia acida; la successive “Hey Man” che rieccheggia sia nel sound che nel lessico dei ritornello le legendaria “Amen” cavallo di battaglia di Otis Redding e Solomon Burke, con in più il torcibudella di due chitarra stravolte in distorsione; “Mary Anne” del grande Glenn Campbell, già nei mid sixties con i mitici Misunderstood; e la cover-version de “Little Doll”, by Iggy Pop, che non teme confronti con l’originale in chiusura del primo album Stooges.

Translation of Buscadero review

Violent sound, obsessive in some moments, but never tedious and monotonous, for an excellent album, indeed I would dare to say “great”, recorded across the Channel, in Birmingham, by a Group of which, at the moment, I have very little news: Spacemen 3 .

I don’t know who drummer N. Brooker is and where he comes from, who is hiding under the pseudonyms of Jason (guitarist and voice) and Bassman (obviously on bass), and I can’t even say with mathematical accuracy that the leader Peter Gunn (other guitar ) is the very good ex Inmates (should?!?! … could?!?! …, but personally in the Group photo I didn’t recognize him), but I can assure you that “Sound Of Confusion” is a shiny album , instinctive and overwhelming that stands up very well in comparison with the legendary Stooges trilogy.

Yes, my gentlemen, the sound is just that, powerful, corrosive and hallucinated to exasperation, but with a bit more psychedelia, and the seven long tracks that make up the vinyl leave no shadow of doubt, Mr. James Jewel Osterberg it is the “spiritual guidance” of the whole work.

The best songs, or rather the most immediate ones, are: “Losing Touch With My Mind” by the pair Kember / Pierce, co-authors of a 4/7 of the opera, opening side one, a granite song surrounded by acid psychedelia; the subsequent “Hey Man” which echoes both in the sound and in the lexicon of the chorus the legendary “Amen” workhorse of Otis Redding and Solomon Burke, with the addition of the twisted guts of two distorted guitars; “Mary Anne” by the great Glenn Campbell, already in the mid sixties with the legendary Misunderstood; and the cover-version of “Little Doll”, by Iggy Pop, which is unmatched with the original at the end of the first Stooges album.

Text of Spex review

Es gibt Vieles, was an dieser Platte bewundernswert ist, ja schön genannt zu warden verdient: Die Hart-näckigkeit, mit der der von den beiden Gitarristen Jason und Peter Gunn verbreitete Wall Of Sound zudeckt, was als wohlbekannte ästhetische Auflösung versöhnen könnte, mit zuviel Feedback, der Verzicht auf blöde sogenennte “Feinheiten”, mit denen nur zuviele junge Bands, die sich an Tiermusik probieren, scheitern (The Leather Nun sind Joni Mitchell gegen Spacemen 3), dann aber die lakonisch und selbstverständlich vorgetragene Feinheit, fast kein konventionelles Schlagzeug zu verwenden und sich stattdessen auf lange Strecken allein auf ein lapidar geschlagenes Tambourin zu verlassen. Die Version von “T.V. Eye”, die nicht als solche kenntlich gemacht ist und sich hier “O.D. Catastrophe” nennt und irgendwie echt besser kommt, als sich immer wieder alte Stooges-Stücke anzuhören. Und überhaupt: verhält sich zu “Interstellar Overdrive” uns “Fun House” wie Sex Pistols zu Rolling Stones. EKG des Westens.

Translation of Spex review

There is a lot that is admirable about this record, that deserves to be called beautiful: The stubbornness with which the Wall Of Sound, spread by the two guitarists Jason and Peter Gunn, covers what could reconcile as a well-known aesthetic resolution with too much Feedback, the renunciation of stupid so-called “subtleties” with which only too many young bands who try their hand at animal music fail (The Leather Nun are Joni Mitchell against Spacemen 3), but then the laconic and naturally performed delicacy, almost no conventional drums and rely instead on a tambourine that has been struck succinctly for long stretches. The version of “T.V. Eye ”, which is not marked as such and is here“ O.D. Catastrophe ”and somehow comes out really better than listening to old Stooges pieces over and over again. And anyway: is to “Interstellar Overdrive” and “Fun House” like Sex Pistols to Rolling Stones. EKG of the West.

My Take
Would Spacemen 3 have become my favourite band if I had only heard Sound Of Confusion? Or if they had made another three albums in the same vein? It’s hard to argue with the reviews that point out the un-originality of the album – not only do we have three official covers in ‘Rollercoaster’, ‘Mary Anne’ and ‘Little Doll’, it is not hard to trace the roots of ‘Hey Man’ and ‘O.D. Catastrophe’, ‘2.35’ is based on a fairly standard blues structure, and Pete Kember has talked about basing ‘Losing Touch With My Mind’ on The Rolling Stones’ ‘Citadel’. There isn’t a lot of variety in tone, with the whole album cranked up to eleven. The guitar onslaught doesn’t let up, and only intensifies as we make our way through ‘O.D. Catastrophe’, the final and longest track on the album. I wouldn’t be able to blame someone coming to Spacemen 3 through this album, with no preconceptions, deciding that this is a band too derivative, too one-note to be of interest. The band themselves weren’t that taken with it, preferring the versions of the tracks that they had recorded at the start of the year as demos in Northampton.

And yet…

It may be the sound of a band establishing themselves and who haven’t quite come into focus yet, but there is a lot to love in Sound Of Confusion. The “wooooosh” that bookends the fabulous ‘Losing Touch With My Mind’… the guitar sound at the end of the choruses of ‘Hey Man’ which sound like a faulty exhaust pipe coming loose from the car it should be attached to and being dragged along the road… the way the rest of the band come in with a “whomp” after the guitar has done one round of the hook at the start of ‘Mary Anne’, as well as the largely one-note solo later in the song… perhaps most of all, the increasingly feedback-drenched last few minutes of ‘O.D. Catastrophe’… it’s an album that doesn’t hold back, never tones it down, and makes it very clear where the band are coming from.

In context, it is as fascinating a listen as the first four Beatles albums are to someone keener on their work from Rubber Soul onwards, the knowledge of where things are going having you look out for clues of future directions while acknowledging that this is a different period, simpler times where the degree of invention doesn’t have to be quite so high, while still having its own, more primitive charm.

The mix isn’t great, and it is intriguing to wonder what could be done by way of a ground-up remix from the master tapes. But as it stands, it’s certainly no disgrace of a debut, with some exhilarating moments.

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