Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Spacemen 3 - Playing With Fire

After reading bassist Will Carruthers' book on his time with Spacemen 3, I have been revisiting the band and I picked up this CD which I did not own previously. Although I have dabbled in alternative realities and I have always appreciated drug-oriented psychedelic music, I generally am not one for the more quiet, ambient direction that some stoned-out music travels, preferring to jar the senses a bit more. That said, a little calmness in the trip can work, as well, and that seems to be what Spacemen 3 is aiming for, overall.

With the emphasis on the drone and minimalism in general, Sonic Boom concentrates on repeating, echo'd/tremelo'd chords with simple, quiet melodies and other slight-of-hand musical touches floating over the top. I completely understand Carruthers stories of the band getting high on hash before recording - this sounds like drugged out music, without a doubt! When we get to "Revolution", there is a bit more ferocity, with louder, distorted chords, a drivin' drum beat and generally more power'n'passion, as they steal mumbled, buried lyrics from the likes of the MC5 (an influence on the band, but mostly just in the Detroit combo's most avant garde moments) but still retain a singular drone ala the MC5's "Black to Comm". For me, this is one of the more effective numbers due to the nicely abrasive textures.

"Let Me Down Gently" refers to a trip rather than a relationship, I assume, while they go for pure pop in "So Hot" and then Sonic puts his guitar's repeater on high for their tribute to the band in "Suicide" and get a little gospel-y in a VU-kinda way in "Lord Can You Hear Me?". On the CD there is a live take on "Suicide", which adds a quite a bit more energy'n'gritty power to the drone with dynamic washes of wah and various waves of sound, along with a live "Repeater", which I must say I prefer in this setting, as well. There's a pretty much unrecognizable (but very cool) version of Suicide's "Che" before they end things with a Velvet Underground-ish, psychedelic take on "Will the Circle Be Unbroken".

The group can go a little overboard in the simplistic, ambient sounds at times, but overall, they are nicely trippy. I may explore some other works of theirs, as well.