China: 20 Years of Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space

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Spiritualized – Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space

Released June 16th, 1997 on Dedicated Records

RYM: #415

BestEverAlbums: #215

Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space is likely the broadest shoegazer rock ever got; put another way, it’s the spaciest Britpop ever got.  Born out of the wreckage of Spacemen 3, J. Spaceman (Jason Pierce) created Spiritualized originally to explore how good designer drugs made him feel.  Ladies And Gentlemen is the peak of that exploration; the record may be a lot of things (a confessional, a recounting of lost love, an exploration of American gospel music, the height of space rock in the 1990s) but at it’s root it is an account of Pierce’s epiphany that he could only find redemption in using drugs.  It’s not really much of a wonder, then, that the album cover was made to look like the cover of a pharmaceutical pamphlet; a special edition was created that turned it into a box of legitimate drugs, complete with dosage instructions and a blister package that contained the CD.  Pierce was not being subtle or even caring to hide his love of the pharmacy; it could very well be the most pro-drug record of the 1990s, Snoop Dogg aside.

Musically it’s very loosely structured.  These are songs with tenuous connections to the ground, and it’s only the stitching mechanism of Pierce’s voice that keeps them from casting off into outer space.  The synthesizers, strings, and horns in the background of most of the songs blow everything wide open, reaching for both ends of the sonic spectrum at once; the clear, sustained guitar lines that shoot through this are frisson moments for those caught in the psychedelic blowout.  There are moments of pure blissed-out rock ‘n’ roll (“Electricity” and “Come Together”), serious old school grooves (“I Think I’m In Love”), and the interpolation of some old Elvis slow-gospel magic (the opener/title track).

The pain and the confessional seeking of solace in drugs was very real for Jason Pierce.  “There’s a hole in my arm where all my money goes,” he opened the sprawling closer “Cop Shoot Cop” with, and it’s as gorgeously harrowing an account of descent into addiction as you’re ever likely to find.  The album’s opening line (which doubles as the title) was spoken by Spiritualized keyboardist Kate Radley, whose romantic relationship with Pierce cratered four days before the release of the record; Pierce had been a rebound from her husband, Richard Ashcroft of The Verve, to whom she returned shortly before leaving Spiritualized for good in 1997.  Pierce claims all of the songs were written before their breakup but the visceral jettison of the normal world for the spaced-out world of coping seems very much the product of capturing the free fall of disintegration as it’s happening.  Really, in the end, that’s the integral takeaway of the record:  it’s basically I Do Heroin: The Album.  It’s a love letter, and it’s to an altered state of being rather than a relationship, but it serves as a fitting account of either.

 

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