Captured at a recent London gig, between the shambling coyness of the BMX Bandits and angular rush of The Pastels, Spacemen 3 made an astonishing racket. On an unlit stage, before rotating kaleidoscopic projections, they played a mammoth music of fuzzed power chords, grinding riffs, songs which tread and spit ever deeper into themselves. They performed perhaps four in a half-hour set.
Extraordinary stuff – the Spacemen make an enormous impact. In a music which sounds, tellingly, most like the instrumental passages running out Doors’ epics like “The End” or “When The Music’s Over”, they have created a psychedelia which , against its genre, is tight, compressed and concentrated.
Where The Legendary Pink Dots become ever more diverse, absurd, far out, these push nearer into a centre, [illegible] all to spectacular repetition. John Peel recently played four full singles while continually returning to Spacemen 3 grinding away on a spare turntable. “I’m really not sure about these lads,” he decided.
Not that there is really so much to be sure about. Although natural comparisons are Velvet Underground, Stooges, 13th Floor Elevators, Spacemen 3 see their extreme music more as a continuation of great rock tradition, an odd bastardisation of rock. Vocalist Sonic brackets them with Hendrix, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, as using the past with a little extra to form their own unique, flamboyant synthesis.
“It goes back, really, to 1920, the very first blues singers. A great hero of ours is Tav Falco: he actually goes round the Delta area of the States filming old blues singers who are 80, 90 years old and having them teach him songs. That sort of soul’s in our music.”
Maybe, but these strains are not the obvious ones in Spacemen 3’s fuzzed overdrive, and neither are Muddy Waters or Otis Redding, both cited by the group. What stokes is a minimalism, constant return to heavy chords, which recalls The Doors. Words, likewise, urge us constantly to excess, abandon; “let it happen to you”, “loose yourself”, “blow your mind inside out”. Sonic sees it as “mind music”. What does this involve?
“Yeah, well it’s drug music, really, for people who are out of their brains. It’s mind music because you can get an incredible feeling of consciousness through sound without using words. A lot of our electricity comes from drugs. It’s not essential to be gone to enjoy us, but I don’t think I’ve ever written a song or played a gig when I wasn’t stoned.”
Spacemen 3’s epic is “O.D. Catastrophe”, a lost, lumbering brute of a song rising from a friend overdosing. The debut LP, “Sound Of Confusion”, is dedicated to him, “to that feeling of panic, seeing someone die.” A forthright extremity.
It seems likely, with favourable response there, that Spacemen 3 may follow Edward Ka-Spel’s Pink Dots to Holland’s drug culture, maybe take root there. Their new single will be called “Transparent Radiation”. – IG