March 1988 – Spin

Regardless of what you’ve been led to believe, England has produced so few great bands in the last half-decade that you could count them using Dondi’s penile rings as an abacus. There just haven’t been that many. There have been some, however, and the best in recent memory is a band called Spacemen 3. In just a couple of years, these clowns have spewed four chunks of major-league wax (all on the English Glass label) that are so consistently great that you’re one bad penny if you don’t pick up on ‘em. They’ve already spawned a gang of craven imitators called Loop, who’ve been awarded favourite son status by the UK press. Luckily, you (the enlightened reader) aren’t as toadyingly lame as the English music press. You recognize unique greatness where it lives and breathes, right? Damn straight. So recognize these already.

Spacemen 3’s first venture into the cold light of day was an LP called Sound of Confusion. Using Elektra era Stooges as a point of departure, this baby takes you on a long, loud, beautiful journey through a dark respiratory system of wah-wahed guitar chords. You know that feeling of melting expansion that races up your vein when you shoot dope? This record produces the same effect. The first chunk bloots in like a narcotic wad of lava-light goo, illuminating all sortsa hidden passages inside your brain. The cover selections here (the 13th Floor Elevators’ “Rollercoaster,” the Stooges’ “Little Doll” and “O.D. Catastrophe”) take familiar musical themes and make them new. A wonderful start.

“The Walkin’ with Jesus” EP is a fitting companion piece. The live take of “Rollercoaster” is almost as mud-trancing as the Elevators’ own, and “Sound of Confusion” rans among the Spacemen’s truly important philosophical treatises. The EP also introduces a more functionally modern guitar edge to the gigantically string-rife proceedings. This stuff was obviously recorded well after the revolution of ’77.

With their next EP, “Transparent Radiation,” our lads took a turn into a moose-colored universe that reflects constantly upon the nature of its own existence. Structurally, the record revolves around two long covers (Red Crayola’s “Transparent Radiation” and a SunRa/MC5 composition called “Starship”) that warm your interior landscape like a pint of laudanum. The guitar swirl is so lushly opiate that the band even gets away with adding some string parts to the long instrumental passages. A Pennsylvania drug dealer I know said that he finds this one “too trippy,” but that seems like calling a bowl of chili “too delicious.” Like, yeah?

The combo’s new The Perfect Prescription not only plows new furrows across your brow, but also kinda sums up everything that’s come before. Included here are a highly-evolved chuff-rave called “Take Me to the Other Side” and some new versions of songs from the preceding two records, done in a style that’s more sensual than any of their previous work. Billy Dwight has said they’re “like being on acid and floating in a sensory deprivation tank with four pounds of butter and Traci Lords.” I pretty much agree with that, but it’s only the beginning. The material runs from acousto-drug-rant to grunt-flecked-howl to hornish-mantra-dowel-slap. Spacemen 3 invite you to go beyond the confines of your consciousness. I suggest that you follow their lead.

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