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Reviews Tin Planet - 1998 - NMESimon Williams
IT'S TRUE - COMEDY IS YET again the new rock'n'roll. How do we know this? Because halfway through 'The Man', track six on 'Tin Planet', we are laughing. Because 'The Man' is disco music. As in full-on, cop-off D-I-S-C-O (that's Dee Eye Ess See Oh) music. The Philly strings are hysterical. The shamelessly funksome basslines will have you openly laughing. By the time you get to the utterly gormless Gibson Brothers' 'Cuba'-style bongo outburst, you're in Tottenham Ritzy's on a Friday night circa 1981 and you're loving it. You are. You really, really are.
Just remember one small thing: Space are completely genuine. They mean it, man.
The story: two years ago Space had some hit singles which flirted with the phrases 'wacky' and 'quirky', but in fact were always a lot more serious than their demeanour suggested. Then they toured like mad and drank too much from the Bottle Of Rock and went slightly crazy and played a quite insane slot at Reading Festival which premiered aforementioned deranged D-I-S-C-O sounds and scared several punters shitless. Whereupon many wise people stroked their chinny chin chins and mused, "Hmm. Will Space ever have another hit record, forsooth?" and then the brilliant 'Avenging Angels' came out and those selfsame wise people shrieked, "Just like we said! A smasheroonie!"
And now, all wobbly shenanigans presumably overcome, 'Tin Planet' finds a band absolutely on the toppermost of their game. True, the small touches help, like the fact that, superstitious to the Nth degree, there is no Track 13, in much the same way that New York elevators contain no 13th floor. But it is the overall picture which truly impresses, as, one 'proper' and one remix album down the line, Space have now really found their feet. And boy, can those paws throw some goddarned shapes!
Well, yes they can. They can also scrawl some juicy little pop tartlets as well, as evinced by fruity flagship singles 'Avenging Angels' (Bacharach & David rewriting the soundtrack to 'Captain Scarlet', essentially) and the none-more-feisty duet with Cerys Catatonia, 'The Ballad Of Tom Jones'. The latter is particularly memorable for the banter-mungous couplet of "I've never thrown my knickers at you/And I don't come from Wales", which is either absolutely the greatest or most definitely the worst lyric of all bastard time. And therein lies the crux of Space.
It is hard to dispel the nagging feeling that the Liverpudlians' music should be a damn sight more irritating than it actually is. Case in point being 'Bad Day', which is to all intents and purposes hoary old chestnut 'Everybody's Talkin'' with added comic capers, but they still manage to make it sound... cool. Ditto the distressingly titled 'A Little Biddy Help From Elvis', a spiritual cousin of '...Tom Jones' and a blatant nod towards singer Tommy Scott's late father, which features the kind of merciless "shoo-wops" that are sufficiently tacky to soundtrack two weeks of groping birds and guzzling Watney's Red Barrel in Torremolinos.
By the time you reach the romantic rampage entitled 'The Unluckiest Man In The World' - fundamentally Bazza Manilow bonged out on Benzedrine and lying in the gutter on Hollywood Boulevard - you twig that Space are the secret missing link betwixt Xfm and Radio 2. And if that doesn't frighten you, you haven't experienced 'Be There', which bobs so unnervingly close to the precipice of the waterfall of naffness, you cannot decide whether it sounds like it was made in 1974 or 1983 - two of the all-time great shite years for pop records.
At the heart of their sound - be it frothingly popsome or frenetically technoid - there lies a degree of honesty which would humble the vast majority of their peers. On 'There's No You' they are The Beautiful South with neither the spite nor the sulks, negating all accusations of crankiness by clinging to the simple-but-suicidal hook of "There's no use/What's the point without you?". During the splendidly evocative 'Disco Dolly' (key observation: "My disco queen loves the disco sound/So why doesn't she love me?") they make like Air without all the soft-focus posiness. And the album closer, 'Fran In Japan', is seven minutes of full-on techno burblings which sounds absolutely nothing, and therefore everything, like Space should, because it is gritty and warm and horrible and comforting and generally such a complete contradiction in terms, one gets the distinct impression they should never have let this lot in the studio - they enjoy it far too much.
And you? You just suspend your disbelief, and those dancing feet will surely follow...
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