100 Greatest Albums of the 90’s: #3

Spiritualized – Lazer Guided Melodies

Rising out of the ashes of Spacemen 3 (a band whose motto had been “Taking drugs to make music to take drugs to”), Spiritualized’s debut sounds like a great set of pop songs that have gathered together to take diazepam and mild caffeine drinks in a tent under the stars. It’s a warm celestial breath pushing through your chest, lowering you slowly into a perfect semi-conscious daydream. The stupour-inducing ambiance makes ‘Lazer Guided Melodies’ a great achievement on its own, but together with the fact is that the songs themselves are so brilliant that they just elevate it even further and topped with Jason Pierce’s unquenchable ambition, this record is nothing less than a timeless, unfathomably beautiful classic. The first half is a smooth and slightly dizzy head-rush of rumbling basses, spacey fuzz-tone guitars and distant mid-tempo bass-drums. The vocals are blurred and quiet and while they may often be indescipherable, they act as an instrument unto themselves. When the lyrics show themselves, they are just as ambiguous; the lullaby-esque opener ‘You Know It’s True’ sounds as amourous as it is nervous and apprehensive. Pierce’s blank vocal delivery leaves everything open to interpretation which makes it all far more personal for the listener. While the first five tracks sound earthbound, all weights are gradually dropped, starting with the pulsating basslines and sighing viola of ‘Step Into The Breeze’ easing its way into the beatless ambient piece ‘Symphony Space’ in which you leave the ground completely. Once you’re weightless, it washes over you with an incredible one-two-three punch: ‘Take Your Time’ is a hypnotic murmering of basses and humming of organs while the shining guitar lines pull you further on into a blissful oblivion. ‘Shine A Light’ is a seven-minute build-up of searching vocals, spacey slide-guitars, ending with a breathtaking crescendo in which it all ascends into distant feedback and tremulous saxophones. ‘Angel Sigh’s far-away whirrs and clicks sedate the listener before it throws them into a smooth jetstream of guitars and pianos, only to do it all over again and drift off into space once more. The come-down comes in the shape of the last two tracks: ‘Sway’ is a slow float down through the atmosphere until ’200 Bars’ lays you down and wakes you up where you started. Like many records of the kind, it sounds good at first, but grows with further listens; a sure sign of endurance.
(Most of this review was adapted from my 2009 review of the same record. I wrote a whole other review for it before I realised that the old one was better. I think I’m losing my touch, not that I had much of a touch in the first place.)

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