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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Spiritualized, "Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space"

"Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space"
Dedicated (1997)

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die + 1000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die

The first thing you'll hear about Spiritualized is that it's a bastion of space rock. "Space rock" is another catch-all genre that has been used to describe dozens of bands, for a variety of reasons. On one hand there's the "Dark Side of The Moon" era-Pink Floyd, due to its futuristic use of synthesizers and ambient effects. Lightyears from that definition are bands like Muse that incorporate electronica-pushing sound effects into a hard rock approach. Spiritualized, unsurprisingly, fits somewhere between those two poles.

Spiritualized revolves around sole songwriter Jason Pierce, who was formally a member of the appropriately-titled, British group Spacemen 3. "Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space" serves as what he called "using drugs to make music for taking drugs." The good news for listeners is that "Ladies and Gentleman" isn't limited to substance as a theme (although it certainly helps) nor are synthesizers and ambience the only instrumental approaches Pierce incorporates.

Pierce's title as a space-rock god certainly revolves on his use of ambience. Fortunately, he doesn't abuse the echo-function in the studio. Nonetheless, the recording style employed allows his voice to sound as if he is performing in an enormous room. The best tracks on this album aren't necessarily the most trippy or synth-soaked however. Pierce uses a gospel approach on "Come Together" (not related to The Beatles track) and "I Think I'm In Love." On the former, the instrumentation is more rock 'n' roll but he gets help with vocals from the London Community Gospel Choir for effect. On the latter, Pierce uses a call-and-response approach (using only his own voice), bouncing between what he feels ("I think I'm on fire") and the reality of his situation ("Probably just smoking").

Jazz pianist Dr. John and string quartets make appearances later, furthering Pierce's range. The instrumental tracks here ("The Individual" and "No God, Only Religion") serve as more than just filler. "Individual" creates an Indian vibe thanks to the drone, although the rest of the sounds are created with very-Western instruments like the trumpet and the French horn.

Pierce's usage of the drug theme fills many roles across the album. There are, naturally, the hallucinatory dreamscapes of tracks like "I Think I'm In Love," but the other side of the story gets just as much attention. "Broken Heart" is the most mellow song on the album (featuring the aforementioned string quartet), lamenting how Pierce is "wasted all the time," and ultimately, lonely. The themes of the album are nicely tied together because every song fades into the next, creating an idea of unity.

"Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space" didn't do anything to disassociate Pierce from the word "space" (as it's featured in the title, plus the blastoff sequence of "Cop Shoot Cop"). It did set him apart from other British alt-rock bands however, as many deemed it even better than The Verve's "Urban Hymns" and Radiohead's "OK Computer," which were both released the same year.

INTERESTING FACT: Breakups are tough. The depressing moments on "Ladies" may have stemmed from Pierce's breakup from keyboardist Kate Radley in 1995, and her subsequent secret marriage to Verve frontman Richard Ashcroft later in the year (The marriage was not revealed until 1998).

I Think I'm In Love (Demo) by Spiritualized on Grooveshark

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