Posted by: Necci – Aug 07, 2010
A stunning--and welcome--development: on July 15, 2010, the Spacemen 3 played a short reunion set at the Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen in London. The show was a benefit for former Spacemen 3 drummer Natty Brooker, who has cancer. It was the first live performance by the band in two decades, and while the band was led by founding member Sonic Boom, it unfortunately did not feature the participation of co-founder Jason Pierce (aka J. Spaceman), perhaps better known at this point for his work in Spiritualized. His absence wasn't as upsetting as it might have been, though, since he was replaced for the evening by My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields. Also performing with the band were longtime bassist Will Carruthers, drummer Jonny Mattock, and guitarist Mark Refoy, along with a guest appearance by Pat Fish, leader of longtime British indie eccentrics the Jazz Butcher. Fish, never an official member of Spacemen 3, was nonetheless credited as a member on their album Dreamweapon. His official listed contribution? "Joint roller."
The fact that Spacemen 3 would list the guy who kept the drugs flowing as an essential performer on one of their albums tells you a great deal of what you need to know about them. Dreamweapon, a 3-song, 70-minute CD, consisted entirely of percussion-less guitar drone pieces. Meanwhile, the title of their first demo, Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To, provided a manifesto for their entire career. Their songs were often long and drawn out, consisting of simple repeating chord patterns, equally simple drumbeats (if they featured any percussion at all), hazy droning organs, guitar feedback, and woozy psychedelic lyrics. This description might make them sound soporific, but while they could occasionally reach airy heights of hazy ethereality, they would at other times use these same ingredients to create a raging storm of impassioned noise. The songs they played at the London gig tended towards the latter end of their musical spectrum, as demonstrated by the performance of "Revolution" posted above. Spacemen 3 took inspiration from the psychedelic drones of Krautrock, but they considered themselves equally indebted to the rabble-rousing firebrands of late-60s protopunks the MC5. The repeated phrase "It takes just five seconds," which appears just before the band blasts off into the thunderous final section of "Revolution," is lifted from stage banter on the MC5's Kick Out The Jams LP. And even without J. Spaceman in attendance, the reconstituted Spacemen 3 done kicked 'em out.
Bonus video: from the same show, Spacemen 3 performing their instrumental "Suicide," which is not about the self-destructive act but instead a tribute to the early-70s synth-punk duo consisting of Alan Vega and Martin Rev. It's fitting that Spacemen 3 were so intent, in the context of their career, on namechecking the various musicians and genres that had influenced them, since they went on to have a huge influence on so many musicians that came after them. From the post-rock movement, to the shoegaze scene of the early 90s, to the psychedelic revival spearheaded by The Brian Jonestown Massacre (who incidentally now feature a former Spacemen 3 member of their own--though not one who performed in either of these videos), there are many widespread segments of the indie scene that reflect the impact that Spacemen 3's pioneering work had, and continues to have, on guitar-based music as a whole. One can't help but hope that this reunion gig will not be a one-off; that they might even coerce Jason Pierce into returning to the fold, long enough at least for one big tour--a victory lap of sorts.
(Or really just an opportunity for me to finally see them somewhere other than in videos on YouTube. Is that too much to ask?)
By Andrew Necci