Review: Space – Attack of the Mutant 50ft Kebab
THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED BY MUSIC NEWS.
Throughout the late 1990s, as the dying notes of Britpop faded and indie music temporarily ate itself dull, a small group of bands pushed the boundaries of what classed as the mainstream. Liverpudlian band Space, whose big hits of the era included Female of the Species, Me and You vs The World and The Ballad of Tom Jones, fused film references and B-movie theramins with jangly guitars and dance influences to critical and commercial acclaim.
And then, in a tangle of record company nightmares, they were gone. Despite selling hundreds of thousands of copies of their first two albums, their third remains unreleased, and their fourth was criminally ignored and led to their break-up in 2005.
Almost a decade later, and Space are back in the game. Initally reforming with three original band-members for a one-off gig in 2011, now just vocalist/guitarist Tommy Scott and keyboard wizard Franny Griffiths remain, but the new recruits – who have been working with Scott throughout the last decade – are buoyant personalities and gifted musicians who have led the band down a slightly different musical path to the one you may remember.
The techno synths, spacious spooky guitar twanging and lyrical tales of self-conflicted pop-culture obsessed freaks and weirdos remain, but drummer Allan Jones and double-bass wielding Phil Hartley (both members of noise-punk trio Super Fast Girlie Show) have, alongside new keyboardist Ryan Clark, infused Tommy’s twisted tales with ska influences.
The infectious bounce of the title track – all manic ska beat, seventies synth warbling and fifties surf guitar riffing – mask a cautionary tale of high street destruction, and the sheer joy of tracks like Falling in Love and Anthony’s Brainwaves are hard not to adore.
Elsewhere, the wicked She’s in Love with the Boy in the Body Bag sounds like Fun Boy Three never left us, and lead single Fortune Teller wraps references to Harry Potter and Doctor Who into a story of not-so-safe sex via a ridiculously catchy melody and thunderous percussion.
Whilst the band’s 90s smash hit Neighbourhood told of a severely messed up street populated by caricatures, Happy Clowns sees Ryan take over lead vocal duties for a more 21st century take on that concept: a family who rob from their neighbours to flog their possessions to Cash Converters. Hilarious and biting in equal measure, it’s typical Space madness and one of many album highlights.
And whilst that tracks harks back to The B-52’s somewhat, the magnificent Frightened Horses sounds like the kind of thing Quentin Tarrantino would score a movie with. And if he isn’t already thinking of doing so, someone needs to sit him down with a copy of this record, pronto.
He’s not the only one who needs to hear it, either. Some bands come back from a long time away a pale shadow of their former selves. Space, on the other hand, are revitalised and arguably better than ever.
Across the twelve tracks on offer, there’s always something interesting going on, be it via Tommy’s tongue-in-cheek lyrics, or the band’s wide spectrum of influences – all worn on their sleeves.
Sure, the chances are Space will never bother the mainstream again, but who cares about the charts when this is the alternative? Because by the time the album’s Latin-tinged finale Day of the Dead rears its sumptuous head, you’ll be itching to play the record all over again, and there’s no shame in doing just that.
Welcome back, Space, may you never leave us again.
Attack of the Mutant 50ft Kebab is released on cd, vinyl and digital formats on Monday 17th March. The band also are on tour with Republica between March 18th & 23rd, with shows at Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool, Coventry and London on sale now.
Lead single Fortune Teller is also available now on download and limited edition 7″ transparent vinyl, both featuring non-album b-side The Perfect Sin.