Spiritualized - Ladies And Gentleman We Are Floating In Space - Review
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critics' view

Has there been a better named album? The seemingly absurdist statement Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space actually gets directly to the core of Spiritualized and to what is arguably the best post-Nirvana rock album of the 1990s. A quote from Jostein Gaarder’s introduction to Western philosophy, Sophie’s World, it was originally coined to describe the extreme nature of clear-sighted thinkers who undertake a “perilous expedition to the outermost reaches of language and existence”. And while drawing analogies between interplanetary travel and more earthbound states of mind such as heartbreak, philosophy, drug use and insanity is as old as rock’n’roll itself, Jason Pierce used his grand creative vision to inject the metaphor with new life and strange vitality.

After the unpleasant demise of lauded cult 80s drone-rock group Spacemen 3, Pierce had talked a good game (and had gone some way to living up to the hype on Pure Phase). But it was only really on this 1997 effort that he managed to successfully combine his love for psych-rock, gospel, drone, electric jazz fusion and thunderous rock’n’roll with the kind of widescreen, immersive production that sounded like it had been crafted by Phil Spector, Wagner and Teo Macero.

The songs were written immediately after a painful separation from Kate Radley, Spiritualized’s keyboard player; she had left Pierce for The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft (which in some respects is like finishing with Nick Drake to go out with Shakin’ Stevens). The clutch of songs not only capture the incessant and raw pain of heartbreak in detail, but also the late-90s post-rave mood of poly-drug use in the UK on a macro level. And what songs they are. I Think I’m In Love is pure (Brit) pop, revelling in the temporary relief from heartbreak offered by self-medication. Electricity crackles with heavy rock malevolence. Pain and the false hope of sweet relief come in waves, so by the time you reach the closing double whammy of gospel beatification Cool Waves and the moody, epic voodoo-rock coda of the Dr John collaboration Cop Shoot Cop, even the listener feels like they have been through the emotional wringer.

Twelve years later Ladies And Gentlemen… is a towering artistic statement finally available as originally intended (with the Elvis I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You gospel coda to the title track) and with masses of extra, desirable music. Prepare to leave Earth’s gravity again.

John Doran
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The BBC's album reviews ended in 2013, although the pages are archived for retrospective reading.
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