Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Spiritualized - Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space Review (1997)

Jason Pierce, aka J Spacemen, aka former co-frontman of Spacemen 3, aka sole intact member of Spiritualized, conjured up the idea of his third studio LP's name by reading Jostein Gaarder's philosophical novel Sophie's World, in which he barked "'Ladies and Gentlemen,' they yell, 'we are floating in space!' But none of the people down there care." The title is meant to demean those who fall ignorant to their home planet's origins, but more than anything else, it sounds cool. Implant Pierce into the scene and you have your lead protagonist, a man who worked tirelessly with incompatible Alternative Rock bandmates, awaiting his opportunity to expand out into the vastness of creative arts. Spacemen 3, his original group, had their moments but were always more concerned with the past of a bygone era than looking ahead, content with slow moving Neo-Psychedelia ripped from the Hippy movement of the 60's. On Ladies & Gentlemen, Pierce took to the stars to make his first fully-fleshed out Space Opera. Spanning a treasure trove of genres, using a plethora of musicians, Pierce's greatest achievement came at the heart of a tumultuous break-up with fellow band member Kate Radley, one that pulled at his heartstrings in an attempt to prevent him from seeing earth from afar.

If there's one thing to ogle at behind the scenes here, it's that tension. For how granular Ladies & Gentlemen becomes, soaring to heights rarely reached in music at the time, there's always the unrequited love bubbling under the surface of almost every song. There's rumors Pierce hadn't known about Radley's soon-to-be marriage with Verve frontman Richard Ashcroft, and while that theory may be true, there's little doubt he knew, at the very least, of a looming breakup. If you pull away from the galactic endeavor Ladies & Gentlemen tries to become, you'll see a man, essentially, pleading for his love to stay. Sometimes, like on the Psychedelic-obsessed 'I Think I'm In Love,' it's done through pure outpouring of idolization, where Pierce catalog's his worth while his inner monologue combats each point with a self-depreciative deterrent. Other times the begging becomes over the top, like on the transcendent 'Stay With Me' that finds Pierce pleading in increasingly dejected tones as the instrumentation around him builds in an attempt to suffocate the lead.

This unrequited love, whether done intentionally or not, makes Ladies & Gentlemen quite the ironic statement. Gaarder's book where the term came from used the phrase to dismiss personal quibbles on the planet's surface in place of paramount notion's of our very existence. Quite a lofty discrepancy for every petty fight on our pale blue dot. So, if implications serve us correctly, Pierce is telling us his own relational inference should mean nothing. And yet, it doesn't. Maybe he's telling us the opposite? That it's okay to engage in personal struggles, and for that hurdle to become emblazoned in your mind, despite the overall meaninglessness of it all when the universe comes into play. A Space Opera set to the frequency in which humanity can relate. On the LP, a memorable transition occurs to amalgamate the two paradoxical statements. After completely unraveling over drug and love possession on 'Home Of The Brave,' Pierce comes to terms with moving on, stating towards the end "I'm gonna rip it up, tear it out, gotta get you off of my soul." Then, like a parasite being yanked away, the fading female voice gets overtaken by noise, which tumbles into 'The Individual' flawlessly, forcing the suffocating Post-Rock anthem to null the pain.

As a coming of age tale, Ladies & Gentlemen works wonders, both in terms of unrequited love, and something I've merely glossed over; drug addiction. Conjoin these personal endeavors with music that'll lift you out of your seat, either from an emotional tug, a raucous hair-raising anthem, or a spiritual ascension, and Spiritualized's epic hits on all the right notes. As a neatly packaged label, Space Rock works quite well but does little to explain just how wide-spread the music adoration is here. Few albums dart around genres as faultlessly as Ladies & Gentlemen. From the multi-layered lullaby of the title track, to the Alternative Rock wailing's of 'Come Together' and 'Electricity,' to the Neo-Psychedelia of 'I Think I'm In Love' and 'Cop Shoot Cop,' to the symphonic orchestration of 'Broken Heart,' to the Post-Rock of 'The Individual' and No God Only Religion,' to the Gospel of 'Cool Waves,' Spiritualized's masterpiece, as evident by this one sentence alone, has it all. In a perfect world, each of these tracks could be given a paragraph of analysis, but for time sake I'll leave their diversity as the main selling point, their intrigue as a reason you should listen.

With risks being prevalent on Ladies & Gentlemen, something any album as ambitious as this one is sure to experience, there are bound to be moments that let each listener down. The same crowd enjoying your go-to radio single 'Electricity' is not the same that'll enjoy the 17-minute exhaustive finale 'Cop Shoot Cop.' However, there isn't a more universal art topic than love, and that's something that oozes out of every song. With Ladies & Gentlemen, Spiritualized showcased love's all-encompassing ways, the hold it had on Pierce, and the fact that, no matter the genre, the tender embrace feels right at home. Love is what's at the heart of Ladies & Gentlemen, and while it gets away from Pierce, something he likely knew from the beginning, it's the fabric holding the LP, the band, the person, and the universe, as humanity sees it, together. Out there, those floating rocks don't give us affection, all that we've known is dead and empty. That, however, makes our place in the cosmos special and reason enough to find value in something as small as another person, because, to you, the love is a goal that's light years away.

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