I See A Change Coming

There’s a lot going to happen this week. It looks like this week will present the only chance for our elected representatives to assert the fundamental principal of British democracy- that parliament is sovereign in the UK, not the government or the Prime Minister. If Johnson and Cummings plan to drive a No Deal Brexit through by proroguing parliament is going to be stopped in the Houses of Commons and Lords then this is it. I hope they are up to it.
The large numbers of people out over the weekend marching show that there is public outrage and fears about this Tory right wing power grab but the pressure has to be maintained. Although Albert Square was fairly full on Saturday afternoon there were significantly more people shopping in the Arndale Centre or going to watch City play Brighton. There is an apathy about the English, a feeling that it couldn’t happen here coupled with the view that Johnson is a man of action and he’s getting things done. Marches and demonstrations are easily ignored by governments. A million people marched against going to war in Iraq. If parliament fails this week, the numbers on the streets and the intensity of the marches have to be increased. I sometimes think that witty placards and polite marching isn’t necessarily going to do very much and that the only way the strength of feeling will be noticed is if things start getting smashed up. I’m not one to advocate violence but it worked with the Poll Tax.
It turns out that the people who talked so loudly in 2016 about taking back control and returning sovereignty to the mother of parliaments don’t really give a fuck about that- they are ignoring the very thing they said they wanted to restore. What the last week has shown is that this country seriously needs a revolution, a wholesale change in its systems and practices. At the very least the UK needs a codified and written constitution, formally setting out the powers of the different branches of government with clearly delineated checks and balances. This necessitates a Head of State with actual political power who would have the constitutional right to resist the request from three members of the Privy Council to prorogue parliament last week. The Queen had no way to do this. I have no idea if she wanted to resist or didn’t but that doesn’t matter. Politically constitutional monarchy is dead in the water and has to go. Outdated, hamstrung and archaic, it serves no practical or political purpose. The House of Lords has got to got too, obviously, replaced by an elected second chamber (private education needs abolishing as well if we’re going to break down the completely unrepresentative run of Prime Ministers who went to Eton). We need significant change, asap.
In 1989 Spacemen 3 called for a revolution. The one that Sonic Boom had in mind may have more due to the harassment he got due to his chosen lifestyle and the supply of hard drugs in the Rugby area than any real political concern but he does get to the point with ‘well I’m through with people who can’t get up off their ass to help themselves change this government and better society’ before concluding ‘hold on a second… I smell burning… and I see a change coming round the bend’.

Monday’s Long Song

I’ve been doing a lot of Spacemen 3 related posts over the past few weeks/months. For some reason something has clicked back into place and their music (and that of the post Spacemen 3 bands, especially Sonic Boom’s Spectrum) makes perfect sense currently and is right where my head is at. They are/were also very good at the long song, two chords repeated blissfully for as long as you like, a kind of focused looseness.

The Perfect Prescription was Spacemen 3’s second album, released in 1987 The album was supposed to replicate a drug trip, from start to finish, the highs and lows. This double track is the peak, the orchestral Ecstasy Symphony part ebbing into a cover of Red Krayola’s Transparent Radiation, mid 60s DIY psychedelia from Texas (recorded and released in 1967 and with fellow traveller Roky Erickson on harmonica).

Ecstasy Symphony/Transparent Radiation (Flashback)

Sonic Boom In The Pink Room

Sonic Boom played The Pink Room at YES, Manchester’s newest gig venue, on Wednesday night in a small upstairs space called the Pink Room (it’s painted pink and has a bit of a Warhol/Factory vibe going on). The room holds about 250 people and the gig wasn’t sold out. The post- Spacemen 3 trajectories of Pete Kember and Jason Pierce are a bit mystifying, Spiritualized playing grand venues to thousands while Sonic Boom/Spectrum plays to the low hundreds. It gives a better gig experience though if you prefer intimate and up close but you can’t help but feel Pete has been shortchanged somewhere along the line.

Sonic takes the stage with one other musician, a guitarist with long, centre parted hair who is wearing a Spacemen 3 t-shirt. Without much in the way of introductions he begins playing the riff to Transparent Radiation, Spacemen 3’s cover of The Red Krayola’s 60s psyche- rock classic. After this slow, repetitious opener Pete doesn’t play guitar again until the end, instead sitting at a table with keyboards, synths, a sampler and an array of pedals, cables, leads and plug ins. From hereon in Sonic digs deep into his bag and plays a selection of songs from his back catalogue- long, slow, hypnotic tracks, loops and drones from the various boxes on the table, all sorts of delay and echo going on. One song often melts into another, the pedals continuing to give out their sounds, loads of tremelo and wobble, as one ends and the next begins. We get All Night Long and Lord I Don’t Even Know My Name from two different Spectrum albums, Spacemen 3’s Call The Doctor and Let Me Down Gently, all perfectly illustrating Sonic’s talents, lyrics that are either melancholic or devotional over the top of undulating synths and waves of sound, drones and loops and repetition. There’s no drummer so the songs never get that injection of oomph and power a drummer brings, instead they glide by complemented by the trippy visuals projected onto the back wall. In the middle of the set Sonic starts manipulating a vocal sample. The set list website says this was during I Know They Say (from Spectrum’s Highs Lows And Heavenly Blows) but I don’t recall that song being the basis of what becomes very improvisational, Sonic constantly triggering the vocal sample, stuttering it, repeating phrases, building in intensity on and on, for what must have been ten or fifteen minutes. He goes back to the guitar for the penultimate song, a fairly blistering take on Suicide’s Che. Pete then tells us something along the lines of ‘this is where we fuck off back stage for a few minutes, you clap and then we come back out but that’s bollocks so we’re just going to keep playing’. He fiddles with a few boxes, sets them going for a finale of Big City (Everybody I Know Can Be Found Here), the highlight of Spacemen 3’s Recurring album and the band’s last single, Sonic’s psychedelic, acid house influenced peak- the pedals and synth pumping the song out, the guitarist using an e-bow to play the top line  and Sonic leaning in to deliver and repeat the lines, ‘everybody I know can be found here/ let the good times roll/ waves of joy/ yeah I love you too’, for fifteen blissed out, mesmerising minutes. Waves of joy indeed. I wish he’d tour more often.

This is the ten minute version of Big City from back in 1991, still sounding magnificent nearly thirty years later.

Big City (Everybody I Know Can Be Found Here)

And this is a 1992 single by Spectrum, also off their album Soul Kiss (Glide Divine) out the same year.

How You Satisfy Me

When Tomorrow Hits

I’m going to see Sonic Boom play next week, in his Spectrum guise, which I’m really looking forward to. I recently discovered this album, Indian Giver from 2008, recorded by Pete Kember and legendary producer Jim Dickinson (appearing as Captain Memphis)- a man for whom the word legendary is fully deserved. On Indian Giver they revisited Spacemen 3’s cover of Mudhoney’s When Tomorrow Hits and it is all you need for this Wednesday morning, two chord, Stooges-inspired, fuzz rock par excellence, a song going off like a slow explosion.

Indian Giver by Spectrum

Monday’s Long Song

Not sure any words are needed to go with this piece of music from Spectrum in 1994, one of Sonic Boom’s post-Spacemen 3 masterpieces (from the album Highs, Lows And Heavenly Blows). If you like loops, space echo guitars, phasing and a general, gentle sense of being set adrift, this is for you.

If you’d like something more abstract, just ten minutes of wobbly drones then this one from 1993 may be your cup of tea.

Ecstasy In Slow Motion

Honey

Back in June I posted a new single from Death In Vegas. Honey is a slow burning, pulsing techno track graced by Sasha Grey’s seductive vocals. I’m still playing it now, still finding it one of those songs that gets right into me and makes me feel alive. In September it gained a video, mainly close ups of Sasha’s face while she coos that she would die for you.

The Los Angeles photographer Blake Little covered people in honey for a series of pictures and a book called Preservation. Being draped in honey might be rather nice but it must have taken ages to get clean afterwards. More here.

Honey is a bit of a theme in art and music- warm, sticky and sweet, an everyday luxury. More honey?

The Los Angeles photographer Blake Little covered people in honey for a series of pictures and a book called Preservation (including the one above). More here. Being draped in honey might be rather nice I would have thought but it must have taken ages to get clean afterwards.

Jim and William Reid’s Honey, like their Candy and Cindy, was a love song to a girl or a drug (or both). Here they are on The Tube, introduced by Paula Yates on Friday night in 1985, still with Bobby Gillespie playing the snare drum. Black leather, pale skin, feedback.

Earlier this year I posted another Scottish band’s tribute to Honey, The Pastels whose Baby Honey is a wonderfully shambolic B-side from 1984.

Baby Honey

There are plenty of other honeys on my hard drive- not sure that’s a sentence that is going to keep me out of trouble- Johnny Burnett’s Honey Hush, Lee Hazelwood’s Silk ‘n’ Honey, Orange Juice’s Simply Thrilled Honey, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas (We’ve Got) Honey Love, Duke Reid’s What Makes Honey? and Prince Fattie and Hollie Cook’s Milk And Honey but this one seems to round this off the best. Spacemen 3 were into honey (of course they were). It was the opening song on their 1989 album Playing With Fire, an album I have revisited a lot earlier this year. Honey is a Pete Kember song that opens with a blast of wobble, some descending chords and plucked guitar notes. The whispered vocal arrives a minute in and everything is stretched and phased, pleasantly distorted. ‘Honey won’t you take me home tonight?’ Pete asks, ‘the night is warm and the stars are bright’. Pete’s meditation drifts on, blissfully and before fading out just before three minutes. ‘Surely there ain’t nothing we can’t do’.

Honey

Playing With Fire

In his book Playing The Bass With Three Left Hands Spacemen 3’s bassplayer Will Carruthers recounts the time a royalty statement arrived in the post, at a time when he was skint, and opening it to find out he had made the princely sum of £0.00. This is when he starts to open his eyes to music being a business, an industry, and not just some friends making music. He goes on to discuss the Spacemen 3 song Suicide, the only joint Kember-Pierce composition on Playing With Fire, a song Will points out the two men received royalty payments for writing- an instrumental, two note groove-drone, based on a Stooges riff (in itself ripped off an old blues riff), in tribute to Martin Rev and Alan Vega. That’s how songwriting works. The song was agony for Will to play, his left hand clawed on the strings and neck of his Gibson Firebird bass. This version was included on the cd release of Playing With Fire, a live version recorded while they were on tour in The Netherlands. It is magnificent and as an extra you can feel Will’s pain while it plays.

Suicide (Live)