I fucking hate Pink Floyd. There, I’ve said it. Now, I appreciate that I may be a lone voice in this particular visceral outburst, and I am ready for the backlash. But, before you go and get your burning torches and pitchforks, tripping over your trippy-tie-dyed-hand-knitted-mirror-embedded-crust-bag to march on Castle Pausehole, please let me explain.
When you’re in the middle years of your hormonal eruption that is the teenage endurance race, one of the least favourable traits – apart from blackheads, wanting to be your older brother, not being able to kiss, being dumped by a heartless bitch because of it, or feet that outgrow your height ratio so you resemble a bean pole with two barges protruding from your ankles – is the notion that you are now all-knowing. As the oracle of fuck-all, it is all about the here and now, and how anything up until that point is ‘old fashioned’ and nobody has blazed a trail like you have. It’s all about tomorrow, the future, and how much of it is stretching out in front of you.
With so much all around you, why get bogged down in the past? Yeah, let’s get some cigarettes, some rizlas, sit on the common, and watch the sunset, like nobody else ever has. After dark and damp sets in, or the bigger boys are on ‘the bench’, its back to a mate’s house – whomever’s parents weren’t in, obviously, ‘cos we’re so rebellious, YEAH! – and then continue the, er, mood and listen to some music. And, as such, to aid the atmosphere the musical choices were honed from a standard roll-call of 60’s psychedelia: Hendrix, Led Zep, and finally Pink Floyd were all wheeled out as stereotypical aids.
Now, my reactionist aggression towards the last name on that particular register was this: what was the first music that your parents got stoned to? What was the archetypal, mainstream, fat-in-his-50’s-balding-frontman band that were still plodding out albums of such tedium as A Momentary Lapse of Reason, advertised by Our Price? Yep, Pink fucking Floyd. And, unfortunately, they were paired with this writer’s most hated word in the English language: mellow. Oh, stick a herbal jostick up my arse, wrap me in a kaftan, lay some lines on me, and lets get all “hey, man” about life. That word has the total inverse affect on me when I hear it. Anyway, as my usual reader will know, I digress…
Hendrix and Led Zep were kind of exempt from this scorn as they were, frankly, dead as a going concern. It was easier to celebrate their achievements and music in its natural timeline, because their creativity had peaked, and let it die. Either figuratively, or in the case of Jimi and John Bonham, literally.
Wasn’t there an alternative? Would my kids ask me what I was listening to when in these years, and if so, would they be horrified to learn that I was listening to the same thing as my mates parents were? Sure, add the past to the knowledge as you grow, go back and discover the source and inspiration for certain bands, and use that to your benefit.
Surely, at a time of such musical creativity and independence, there were bands that were drawing on the influences of these bands, but making it their own? Something that we could actually pass back up the chain to our elders, as well as downwards to the offspring?
When Spacemen 3 arrived in my earholes, I make no excuses for accepting that they were a drone-clone of The Velvet Underground, and drew very strongly from the bands and art scene of the 60’s that I was trying to escape from. But they were ours. They had cool, bowl haircuts, Vox Teardrop guitars, and even the frontman was called Sonic Boom. Actually his name was Peter Kember, but hey! It didn’t matter in 1988.
Introducing their noise to my mind via mini LP ‘Sound Of Confusion’, they then blew it out with 1987’s ‘The Perfect Prescription’, which laid their sounds out, and showed that both Kember, and his quieter, songwriting sidekick Jason Pierce had big songs in them, not just sonic feedback and angst.
But by 1990, all was not well in the spaceship, and as recordings of their final studio album, ‘Recurring’, were taking place, Pierce was getting itchy to get on the road again. Kember, who had openly started a solo project, was dragging his heels with finalising his side of the album, and other projects were shaping up. As such, Pierce asked the other members of the band to rehearse and jam with him in an old church, calling the project ‘Spiritualized’. The difference being that Kember wasn’t told, and the other band members kept it a secret from him until the first single came out. And that, as you would expect, ended the band. Kember and Pierce haven’t spoken since.
As Kember started to drive his career as a producer, Pierce set about establishing Spiritualized as a bigger, more ambitious version of his previous band. And it worked. By 1997, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space’ went platinum.
However, Pierce made no secret of his drug use, and at times, whilst credited with sparking some of the creative elements that inspired his indie-gospel, it also threatened to ruin not only his career, but his life. In 2005, he suffered from severe pneumonia, which resulted in both of his lungs filling with fluid, and his weight plunging to a telethon-inducing 7 stone – not bad for a six-footer, eh? There are women reading this now, thinking “I haven’t read about that diet…” The resulting album, ‘Songs in A+E’, showed not only a gallows sense of humour, but hinted at the closeness to death that had increased the spiritual and gospel elements of his music.
Earlier this year, Spiritualized released ‘Sweet Heart, Sweet Light’ – their most complete album, and most ambitious in terms of song structure and immediacy. It really is a brilliant album, that has so much intimacy, interspersed with production on an incredibly grandiose scale. A word that is losing it’s value across the globe is ‘epic’ – it is currently being over-bummed to death by a car insurance company, in an advertising campaign that runs the risk of causing me to punch kittens in the face. However, there are moments on this record that are, in the truest and literal sense of the word, epic. And, tellingly, there are moments on this album that have echoes of Pink Floyd at their best and, as I am sure you may have noticed, my disdain of them has dissipated severely over the preceding years. I now just acknowledge them!
The closing track, ‘So Long, You Pretty Thing’ is nearly eight minutes of musical joy to this writer. Its starts slowly, grows in the middle, then just erupts into an anthemic, hands-in-the-air chorus – the very nature of its repetition such that even my seven and five year old sons know the words.
But lyrically it has great strength, and as such can be filed into ‘Top 10 Break-up Songs’, or one of those tracks that when the World kicks you dead straight between the legs, it has the power of returning air to the lungs (but not the reduction in swelling to your stinging plums). It is a wonderful closing to a magnificent album, uplifting but with a vision and soul that reeks of gospel and drug-free clarity.
Its music that has the power to heal the soul, the heart, and Pierce’s case, the body as well. They’re touring this autumn, and having seen them finish their set with Spacemen 3 track ‘Take Me To The Other Side’, they now have a band that can deliver Pierce’s vision. And it’s a sight worth seeing. Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with my song of the year.
Dedicated to one of my dearest friends, and also to a total stranger. I hope you both enjoy it.