Mommy has gone for a long walk so I’m using this opportunity to introduce HRH to one of my favorite of my Desert Island albums – LOUD! Because that’s the only way to listen to this album. I’m referring to the incredible ‘Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space‘ album by Spiritualized.
When this album was released in 1997, I was penniless and living in London, U.K.. I put aside a few lbs. each paycheck through the winter anticipating the release of this very album. It even meant that I went without heat or hot water on occasion; priorities are priorities, after all.
And this album was definitely my priority.
And rightly so. More so than maybe any other album, it changed my life and the way I looked (listened?) at music.
From the opening refrain of “All I want in life’s a little bit of love/To take the pain away/Getting strong today/A giant step each day” in the opening title track, I was 100% hooked.
How do you describe this album? Drugs, melancholic, lonely, sad, romantic, psychedelic, mellow, space, epic, breakup, atmospheric, dense, love, soothing, spiritual…all the above?
It’s just one of those kinds of albums.
It’s chaotic, it’s beautiful, it’s tender and it’s abrasive all in one big fucked up, medicated auditory egg roll. At a deafening volume (the only way to listen to it in my opinion), it’s blowing HRH‘s little lizard brain.
It opens up with the airy title track that bleeds into an injection of adrenaline and bounces back and forth between moments of primal rage, lust and loss. ‘I Think I’m in Love‘ starts with a dreamy swirl of sound taking the listener through a heroin injection before seemlessly switching into a quicker paced series of contradictory dialogue – “I think I’m in love…maybe you’re just lonely” truly one of the highlights of the album. For anyone who’s ever truly been in love and abruptly dumped this album speaks like a support group.
If you’ve ever drank to forget it almost sounds like words you wish you’d written first, “sometimes I have my breakfast right off of a mirror – or sometimes I’ll have it right out of a bottle” (‘Home of the Brave‘). The real highlight of the album though is in it’s emotional abyss, ‘Broken Heart‘ – a song so desperately honest it hurts to listen to. He doesn’t try to get clever or academically poetic with the lyrics – it’s too emotional for that he just hits you with the straight shot “Lord, I have a broken heart…and I’m cryin’ all the time.” The lyrics are accompanied by a sweeping set of strings that seem to lull you to the brink of tired as you become emotionally spent. ‘Stay With Me‘ is all washes of fuzz and gentle guitar, layers clicking round like clockwork, new cogs being added to the machine.
Then after you take a deep sigh and catch your breath, church bells ring and after some horns come in you are led to the beautiful ‘Cool Waves‘ which could really be the end of the album right there.
But, thankfully, it’s not.
The best is still to come with the bluesy and sinister 17-ought minute long ‘Cop Shoot Cop‘. It’s absolutely orchestrated madness and I love it. It’s begins all innocently enough and them at it’s peak, especially when played LOUD (as we are) it sounds as if a 747 is taking off in your living room before returning you back again to the subtle meanderings from which it all began. Gorgeous. Oh, and on an interesting note, this track also features guest appearances from the Balanescu Quartet, The London Community Gospel Choir and – get this – Dr. John.
This record was all about ambition – the marrying of rock and gospel and choirs and orchestras and blues and drone and noise and soul, to a theme of love and drugs; something we’ll dabbled in at one time or another (of course, maybe one more than the other).
‘Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space’ reached #4 on the UK charts, during the height of the Britpop period. The album then went on to be named the NME Album of the Year at the end of 1997, beating other critically acclaimed albums such as Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer‘ and The Verve’s ‘Urban Hymns‘ (both other Desert Island albums on my list). After listening to this album pretty much on repeat for the next 4-5 months, I also managed to scrap enough money together to go see them perform at the Royal Albert Hall (click HERE) later year…which would become the ultimate pinnacle of my musical concert-going experiences.
Tonight, that love is being passed down the line to HRH and I believe the transformation of a newfound Spiritualized fan is born.
My work here is complete.