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Reviews - Spiders - 1996 - NME

THERE'S A theory being tossed around at the moment in media circles (propagated by the band's PR, obviously) that Space are going to be the first band to make ten novelty hit singles. But this is about the worst faint praise you could ever give this band.
'Serious' music-lovers find it a little difficult to deal with the concept of humour in pop. This is because they think that humour is an end in itself, and if a song is funny then that's the whole point of it, and must not be worth taking seriously or appreciating on any other level. So a record that's funny must be 'novelty', severely lightweight in appeal, and of limited shelf-life. Arses to the lot of them.

You don't often associate wit, irony and humour with bands from the northwest of England these days, mind, as northern soul of the guitar variety has become po-faced, orthodox and cripplingly generic. Likewise, Space don't need the tedious, sell-by-the-yard scally arrogance of their regional counterparts. The only slightly worrying thing is, on the contrary, they reckon they're shit. And, once again, we're gazing down the trap door marked 'Awful Ironic Bands', which is to make music they have no affection for, effectively saying, 'Buy this, it's shit'. Or are they just taking the piss again? You can't quite imagine they aren't luxuriating, though, in exotically-flavoured show-tunes like 'Female Of The Species' or 'Neighbourhood', for all the caustic grime of black humour smeared across their lyrics. Their humour has a depth and a bite to it because it's borne of frustration rather than frivolity, and emotional roller coasters rather than academic joyrides.

For all Space are seen as weirdly comic relief from Britpop and Noelrock, they're as much, if not more, in keeping with a classic British pop lineage as any of those bands. You'll find echoes of The Kinks, the Buzzcocks, Squeeze, and Madness punctuating this record. Plus Frank Sinatra, second-rate indie-dance, pummelling rave and Hawaiian xylophone-molesting if you listen carefully. Mumsy.

The suspicion that Space might be destined to be a singles band, like the four mentioned above, is just about fended off here when you hear the holiday siesta of 'Dark Clouds' (irony - don't worry about it), funky rock like 'Drop Dead', satirical laments like 'No-one Understands Me', or just fine guitar pop with tongue busting through cheek like 'Love Child (Of The Queen)'.

Much of Space's world-view is an unashamedly cartoon one, where the weirdo next door is The Hooded Claw, and our heroes speak in innocent Ren and Stimpy voices in awe of this f??ed up world around them. And if nothing else, it makes a change from clichd tripe about rivers, red skies and the blues.

True, a few of the gags are obvious and hackneyed, and they have a tendency to half-bake their arrangements of a couple of songs, trying to emulate the esoteric charm of 'Female...', but, ultimately, we have to be thankful for who we are about to receive. Because Space are worthy of a superlative that is all too rare in new British pop right now. No, not 'novelty'. Just 'unique'.

Rating: 7

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