The Greatest Show on Earth

Space. The final frontier when it comes to nine minute ‘epics’. The term that gets you to brace yourself for a self-indulgent meander through the instrumental badlands. So when a record claims to be floating in the same cosmic vacuum, well, it’s best to approach with caution right? Get a can of Heineken, a prawn byriani and keep a copy of ‘Silas Marner’ at hand. With these terrestrial anchors at hand you may approach the weightlessness of another dimension safe in the knowledge that, when it all gets too much, a swig of Dutch lager and a couple of pages of George Eliot on weaving can ensure a swift touchdown.

Jason Spaceman, a.k.a. Pierce, is unashamedly something of an astronaut. When the one-time mainstay of the bathroom-cabinet-et-al guzzling Spacemen 3 found his first band to be on the brink of forking in two different musical directions, he grouped a few friends together and set about steering the flipside of the Spacemen’s last LP in the direction he wanted it to go. Little surprise then when the first Spiritualized release, as Pierce’s new collaboration was now dubbed, emerged the same year. 1992’s debut LP ‘Lazer Guided Melodies’ hinted, through its fairly watery and rootless instrumentals, that Jason was still searching for the sounds he really wanted to communicate with. Registering as four tracks, it’s the perfect soundtrack to a slow-motion documentary about moths in flight, but nothing to get worked up, or particularly alert about. ‘Pure Phase’ followed, taking a big step in the ‘please actually listen to us’ direction. It’s 14 songs were clearly reminiscent of the narc-haze of ‘Lazer Guided Melodies’ but had a new importance about them. It was the sound of a man deciding that his music should, and effortlessly could, captivate an audience, as opposed to pacify it.

Sheryl Crow had her notebook stolen a while ago. It contained the sum total of her song-writing exploits over the last year. As she failed to remember a single note of these purloined tunes, they remain lost in the ether, perhaps decomposing in a rubbish heap, perhaps giving a light-fingered opportunist hysterics. But fate does not always play saviour to mankind’s ears.

In 1995, on an American tour, Jason Pierce wrote 12 songs. He lost the tape, all the receipts and napkins upon which his ideas were first scrawled, and had only the remnants of song called “Broken Heart” floating around in his head. Despite being gutted, at the end of the year he sat himself down in Moles Studio, Bath, and recorded fourteen songs in eleven days. Just like that. The sounds were already in his head, they just needed putting in order.

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