The debut album by one-half of the Spacemen 3 songwriters (Jason Pierce, AKA J Spaceman), Lazer Guided Melodies continues and deepens his old band’s investigations into contemplative, despairing, or ecstatic states. As with their forbears in the Velvet Underground, those states may be induced by chemicals, religion, love, white noise, or any intersection thereof.
The minimalist-maximalist album has shifting layers of guitars, strings, chimes, and horns in its weave of rock, ambient, and alternately cosmic and pastoral orchestral music. Think Pink Floyd driving a Moonlight Mile down the Autobahn (or, as Robert Christgau quipped re: Spacemen 3, “Stooges for Airports”), and you’re getting there.
The album is broken up into four color-coded suites that take us from the center of the earth to outer space; from conception, to the heat death of the universe.
I. (Red) “You Know It’s True / If I Were With Her Now / I Want You” – 13:12
[Birth, molten magma. Love.]
Where everything begins.
II. (Green) “Run / Smiles / Step Into The Breeze / Symphony Space” – 14:45
The sound of wonder at being alive, and able to move, in the world. “Run” mashes JJ Cale’s “Call Me The Breeze” together with the VU.
But it ends on an ambiguous note – the burnt-out, confused hum of “Symphony Space”.
III. (Blue) “Take Your Time / Shine A Light” – 14:09
Starts out brooding, with the narcotic pulsing drone blues of “Take Your Time”. Then comes the gentle space gospel of “Shine a Light”, the first of two overt Stones nods, ending on a rocketing, ascending noise freakout carrying us out of the blue, and into the
IV. (Black) “Angel Sigh / Sway / 200 Bars” – 18:54
[Death, space. Enter the void.]
Some editions of the CD have what is either a mastering error, or a great false-start prank embedded in “Angel Sigh”: after a minute-long, gradual fade-up intro, the song “skips” back to its beginning, sending thousands of confused ‘heads scrambling over to peer at their stereos as the build-up starts all over again.
We end with the reflexively-punning “200 Bars”, which finds our exhausted hero on a quest to obliterate his pain in the titular tippling establishments, and has a duration of – you guessed it – exactly 200 measures (“bars”), all metronomically counted off in deadpan monotone by band keyboardist and then-muse Kate Radley (their breakup several years later would fuel Spiritualized’s breakthrough Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space.)
What’d you think?