It’s jolly kind of Kate Radley to usher in Spiritualized‘s 1997 magnum opus by telephoning in the album’s title. Because, you know, what with all the orchestral bombast, astral guitars, and references to substance abuse, I was having a fair bit of trouble figuring out the predominant mood of the album.
I jest. Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space is an hour-long trawl through the narcotic inventory of frontman Jason Pierce (a.k.a. J. Spaceman). If Queens of the Stone Age’s “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” is about drugs, then Ladies and Gentlemen… makes that song sound like a Fisher Price toy. You can’t say Pierce eases the listener in gently: the album’s first two tracks catalogue the highs and lows of going into outer space, with all the subtlety of an ox cart. The opening song is Hollywood-tender; all sugary strings and softly murmured vocals invading every millimetre of personal space you might be holding on to. Then, we get the flip-side: “Come Together” is a warts-and-all freakout, complete with a brass fanfare to mark the song’s false ending.
“I think I can fly:
Probably just falling.”
And then we get the song where the two sides of Pierce’s hedonism connect. “I Think I’m In Love” spins an alternately sneering and then cynical internal monologue across a mesmerising eight-minute raga. Keeping it together, just, is the collected motorik beat; over it, we get a dizzying cyclical organ figure, free-jazz squalls of brass and guitar, and occasional descending sheets of violins.
“Think I’m the life and soul:
Probably just snorting.”
It’s not druggy music; rather, drugmusic. The two conflicting halves of self-medication collide, but the product is pure fusion rather than fission. Of course there is the occasional moment of euphoria, marking the temporary breakthrough of the addled mind’s false sense of supremacy, but these quickly dissipate. Who is Pierce in love with? Himself, and simultaneously, mid-realisation, no-one at all. But you wouldn’t think so if you didn’t listen to the words, so ballsy and triumphant is the music. In its over-furnished grandeur, “I Think I’m In Love” recalls A Northern Soul-era The Verve—a fine touchstone, in my books.
The song fades out, as impenetrable as it began, leaving us totally unprepared for the fresh assault the next song, “All Of My Thoughts”, will eventually deal out.