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Reviews Suburban Rock 'n' Roll - March 2004 - Leeds Music Scene

After the bloated corpse of Britpop (1992 - 1998) had finally gone up to the musical genre in the sky, it left its protagonists in an agonising position. Change or die. Whilst some groups evolved and morphed into something new and exciting, it's always the way that some get left behind, too afraid to try pastures new. Bands like Blur and Radiohead went down different roads, whilst bands like Oasis and Stereophonics stuck with the same formula, defying the odds by staying alive. And that's not mentioning the ton of bands that were massacred when tastes shifted for something new. One of these was Space, a Liverpudlian band, whose quirky and often idiosyncratic style singled them out as being one of Britpop's most likeable acts. But about the time when bands like Catatonia were falling by the way side, so too did Space, and until now, remained a footnote in an equally as forgettable genre.

Mainly because of the amount of genre busting, envelope pushing albums that came out in 1997 & 1998, Britpop hadn't a leg to stand on. I'm talking 'OK Computer', 'Mezzanine', 'Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space', 'Urban Hymns', etc. So from then on, songs about Tom Jones and Avenging Angels seemed pretty tame and silly. So, poor Space returned to being a forgotten band from a forgotten musical landscape. Until that is, six scallies by the name of The Coral blew up two years ago and totally re-invigorated the life in Liverpool's music scene.

'Suburban Rock 'n Roll' sounds like the funkier brother of The Coral. Mixing their brand of 1950s- 1960s guitar twang with Space's penchant for funky drum breaks and even scratching on the title track, it sounds very fresh and enjoyable. Synths, samples and more electro noodling are all present, mixing up the retro elements of the so-called 'Scallifornia' scene with more up to date technology. As ever, lead singer Tommy Scott sounds as Liverpudlian as humanly possible without becoming an extra on Brookside, but it's less noticeable now.

At certain moments, Space aren't afraid to rock. Second track 'Zombies' has layers of fuzzed guitar with cheesy synths and retro keyboards, with that unmistakably Britpop chorus. It's as though during their break from the limelight, they were carefully studying what was going on music wise, as when 'Hitchhiking' comes on, you know they've listened to their fair share of the new breed of Liverpool acts currently vying for attention. All strummy acoustic guitars and 1950s echo chambered vocals; it's a cool slice of retro Americana. What used to bug me about Space were their cheesy lyrics and processed-to-fuck backing tracks, making them sound more like a pop band than a group to take seriously. However, on this album, they seem to have acquired more direction and cohesion as a band.

Sometimes sounding as brilliantly skewed as Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, but with more production, and at others sounding like every Liverpool band from 1965-2004, it's an altogether pleasant listening experience. The mariachi brass section wasn't far off, I could feel it. And on 'Punk Rock Funeral' it's there in all its glory. Fantastic. 'Hell's Barbeque' sounds like Portishead being remixed by The Zutons, with that laid back trip hop beat, lethargic scratching and trippy chorus, complete with atmosphere. Beth Gibbons, is that you?!

This is weird. I never thought I'd be listening to a Space album, let alone quite enjoying one. There are too many catchy hooks and brilliantly produced efforts here to make me turn off though. 'Paranoid 6Teen' and 'The English Language' are enjoyable and interesting in themselves, and if I say one more good thing about this album, my head will cave in under the pressure. 'Pretty Suicide' is more Portishead- esque trip hop, with hints of James Bond soundtrack style orchestration, making a very sleazy, down tempo groove. But fuck me if it isn't great. Then there's the string samples on '20 Million Miles From Earth' and 'Quiet Beach' which sound like The Avalanches day off, but still sound fantastic. 'The Goodbye Song' rounds everything off with a slow, beat heavy farewell.

Anyone wanting to know where The Coral, Zutons, Bandits, etc, etc. come from, then this is a must have CD for your collection. Anyone interested in fucking good comeback albums should also route a copy of this album out. In fact, anyone that appreciates interesting sounds, but with a catchy melody should also check this out. Blimey, who'da thought that Space were still around, let alone making albums like this? Britpop's legacy of failed bands has one less on its books. (Gavin Miller)

Original Article available here
Source: Leeds Music Scene