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Reviews - Invasion of the Spiders - 1997 - NMEStephen Dalton
SPACE HAVE SEIZED THE TAG 'QUITE good' and made it their own. Almost uniquely among their '90s Scouse-pop peers, they have negotiated a singular path between Oasis-derived ultra-northern naturalism on one side and Cast-style retro-mysticism on the other. You could probably argue that their scabby-kneed surrealism owes more to The Beatles in their social observation days than anything Noel has yet written, but let's not start any more slanging matches.
The point is, the Space gang have already proved themselves enamoured of music-hall whimsy, defiantly non-Britpop arrangements and even undiluted techno on last year's debut album 'Spiders'. Which means this double-disc compilation of wiggy offcuts and disco mixes reeks less of cheesy cash-in than it might have done from another band. It's hardly a coherent collection in sound or quality, but it emphatically does not smack of trendy spin-doctoring either.
The first CD is all dance remixes in diverse styles, and quite a frisky little collection. Whether even the most devoted Space fan actually needs three separate reworkings of 'Neighbourhood' is arguable, but the 'Pissed Up Stomp Mix' is a monster blast of big beats, wibbling sound effects and farting frog noises. Top drawer gear.
Elsewhere, 'Female Of The Species' becomes a Daft Punk-style whooshy disco excursion, 'You And Me Vs The World' a pleasingly elegant ambi-jungle gallop, and 'Dark Clouds' a rumbling trip-hop symphony with its doomy lyric left intact. Despite three or four predictable Ravey Davey belters, this is ultimately a creditable set of imaginative new angles on old tunes.
The second disc is more frustrating, its balance tilted away from the quirksome towards the utterly superfluous. In this latter category are radio edits of 'Dark Clouds' and 'Kill Me' - the words 'radio edit' being record company shorthand for 'slightly shorter, slightly inferior, but otherwise EXACTLY THE SAME as the original - only with less swearing'. Hooray!
The remaining left-field sketches vary in quality from the likeably disposable to wank on a plank. The best stuff doesn't even sound like the chart-shagging Space at all, more like the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band arm-wrestling Beck over a sloppy grunge-hop groove ('Turn Me On To Spiders', 'Rejects') or Tricky-style garbled verbiage wrapped around distorted guitar loops ('Blow Your Cover', 'Shut Your Mouth'). All fertile stuff, but raw green shoots rather than a well-tended orchard. Maybe the next official Space album will bloom into full-on techno and Dadaist post-rock. Let's hope so.
The most conventionally Space-like track here is 'Influenza', in which Jamie complains of being treated like a series of unsavoury diseases. Fine stuff. Then the techno-metal romp of 'Had Enough' brings down the curtain, and not before time. Space might be infinite, but you can have too much of a quite good thing. (6) for the first CD, (5) for the second.
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