In my early teens, a friend and I smoked our first spliff in a memorial cloister. Designed as a tribute to the wireless officer of HMS Titanic (the village’s most famous son), in the years following its construction it was primarily used as a urinal. Neither of us had figured out how to roll the joints yet, so we bought a cheap machine in the Camden market that supposedly did it for you, producing lollipop stick spliffs so compact that the effort of rolling them out. inhaling alone was enough to make you dizzy. My friend – whose taste for music has always struck me as more sophisticated than mine – told me he had the perfect album to enhance what we anticipated to be an important event in life, a record called Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in space. We each took a small earpiece from their iPod nano.
The combination of my nonexistent drug tolerance, the faint smell of old piss, the jagged nerves of a protected teenager breaking a very minor law, and the dizzying thrill of having acquired weed in a village where the arrest The lone dealer’s subsequent would see the police declare victory in the War on Drugs, creating a weird and dizzying headspace that, in fact, felt quite intense. As the orchestra’s serene gospel of the opening title song elegantly swept “Come Together,” with its relentless buzz, hellish guitar squalls, and brass-devouring rushes, things really started to sound psychedelic. that changed life. experience that we had naively anticipated from what was, in retrospect, a fairly weak spliff. Jason Pierce’s voice was so direct amid the colossal whirlwind of noise, pushing in perfect sync with the humming bass, his piercing, cryptic words: “These tracks of time, these tracks of mine / Little Johnny is busy.”
“I think I’m in love” came next, where again Pierce sounded like a genius. “I think you make my head spin now / Probably just spinning / I think I’m a fool for you baby / Probably just learning” sounded like the deepest, most spiritual lyrics to me. that I have ever heard. Shortly after, retirees enjoying the nearby 12th century church walked past us and gave us a dirty look, so we left before I could hear the rest of the record. Yet the spell had been cast. I bought Ladies and gentlemen on CD shortly after – his pill pack design sounded like a masterpiece in itself – and I immersed myself in a world that felt galaxies far removed from the staid indie rock I had heard before. Even as the novelty wore off and my broader musical tastes (and drug use) started to get more sophisticated, it was music that had the power to totally transport; a live performance of ‘Come Together’ at Liverpool Psych Fest in 2015 was so gorgeous that in the end I couldn’t tell if my shirt was still on.
It all happened over a decade after Ladies and gentlemen was actually released, but at no point did it sound like “old” music. There was nothing from 1997, or any year, to its sound – the music was so big and so daring that the Gregorian calendar pales into insignificance. Those who heard the record when it was released also commented on its timelessness. “The work of a man who, having assimilated an army of influences […] succeeded in creating an entirely new noise from the wreckage, ”said NME‘s Paul Moody in his review. Even the cover, in its homage to the simple and enduring design of prescription drugs, has not dated the way the art of its predecessor Pure phase a, for example. In its reissue, the third in Fat Possum Records’ ongoing 180g double vinyl remaster series, it still seems to operate in a dimension outside of such trivial concerns as legacy and nostalgia. It’s a sublime remaster, the dynamic peaks and valleys of the record are more spectacular than ever. The mass of instrumentation, from the most subtle swirling synth line to the most seismic sonic tsunami, is finely balanced like the intertwined orbits of a solar system. With this little sound editing, the music always sounds completely fresh.
Yet despite all of this, it’s hard to imagine that a record like Ladies and gentlemen could be done in 2021. In the press material reviewing his recording, the majority of Pierce’s memories relate to his Odyssian search for the perfect sound: “I went everywhere to do it. […] I went to Memphis to see [country musician] Jim Dickinson for two weeks […] There were mixes from the old A&M studio on La Brea in Los Angeles. Part of the reason I never got royalties on any of these records is that I was always like, “Well, where do I go now? Suddenly Rugby’s move to London was short lived compared to ‘can I do it in LA, can I do it in Memphis, can I do it again? And then “Can I fly to New York and put Dr. John on the record?” ”
These types of airline miles are, needless to say, now well beyond the budget of just about any group the size of Spiritualized in the mid-90s. If, by some miracle of privilege, it could be managed, it would be irresponsible in the age of climate catastrophe.
There is of course not a complete absence of musicians with the same scale of artistic vision as Spiritualized, and transnational collaboration is more common than ever thanks to technology and the forced constraints of the pandemic, but it is. a whole different tone – the sound of squeezing every last drop of limited time and space, rather than lying in limitless resources. Although it does not appear dated, then, due to the logistics Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in space now sounds like the music of the past. It’s a shame, though perhaps fitting, that in an effort to standardize the reissues of their first four albums, the immortal artwork has been replaced with a cartoon-style clip-art image that looks already dated.