fri 14/05/2021

Reissue CDs Weekly: Spiritualized - Lazer Guided Melodies | reviews, news & interviews

Reissue CDs Weekly: Spiritualized - Lazer Guided Melodies

Reissue CDs Weekly: Spiritualized - Lazer Guided Melodies

Jason Pierce and co’s first album reappears

Spiritualized at the time of 'Lazer Guided Melodies', with Jason Pierce on the rightColin Bell

Lazer Guided Melodies was great. It still is. Spiritualized’s debut album built from what was already there in Jason Pierce’s previous band Spacemen 3 and took it into newer, more textured territory. While softer-focussed and more dynamic than Spacemen 3 there was still an edge, a brittle carapace which ensured Spiritualized was its own thing.

Lazer Guided Melodies was great. It still is. Spiritualized’s debut album built from what was already there in Jason Pierce’s previous band Spacemen 3 and took it into newer, more textured territory. While softer-focussed and more dynamic than Spacemen 3 there was still an edge, a brittle carapace which ensured Spiritualized was its own thing. There was also a gospel-informed sense of drama. What came together on Lazer Guided Melodies became the endlessly malleable raw material which Pierce is still redrafting. Indeed, his last album, 2018’s And Nothing Hurt, was recognisably one by Spiritualized.

When Lazer Guided Melodies was issued in March 1992 its immediate roots were in what became the final Spacemen 3 album, February 1991’s Recurring. One side was Pierce’s, and the other was by his Spacemen co-pilot Peter Kember aka Sonic Boom. In effect, Pierce’s side of Recurring was a flexing of the musical muscles which paved the way for Lazer Guided Melodies and everything which followed for Spiritualized – a path which only faltered after 2003’s Amazing Grace album.

Spiritualized  Lazer Guided Melodies reissueThe reappearance of Lazer Guided Melodies brings an opportunity to reflect on its context. The arrival of Spiritualized’s first album was telegraphed a year before its release in interviews to promote Recurring where Pierce talked about his new outfit, their forthcoming album Smiles and played rough mixes of it to interviewers. He wasn’t so interested in selling Spacemen 3. The recording of the album had begun in November 1990. Further sessions were undertaken in May and July 1991.

As was known when Recurring came out, Spacemen 3 had already ceased to exist. An after-the-fact release, it was completed in 1989 and 1990. The dovetailing between Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized was messy. Spiritualized’s debut single, "Anyway That you Want me", had arrived in June 1990. It was preceded by Kember's solo album Spectrum, in shops in January 1990. Then, Recurring was issued.

What had been trailed as Smiles was probably born from conflict or, at least, from conflicting and irreconcilable outlooks. Being interviewed for Recurring, Kember said “one of the main reasons the band [Spacemen 3] split was because I felt Jason was aping everything I was doing. Any direction I made towards something different, he would just follow."

In the same Vox magazine interview, Pierce said he was stifled. “There's no need for Spacemen 3 to carry on as a band unless it was some kind of corporate logo, a business that could make someone a lot of money. Half the reason why Spiritualized started was because Spacemen 3 was becoming a very safe live act – safe for myself, anyway. We were just playing the heavy, hard-core stuff like 'Revolution'...there was no highest of highs, lowest of lows. I was fighting to get some quiet stuff into the set. Pete never considered himself leader of anything until some bastard wrote ‘Sonic Boom, leader of Spacemen 3’.”

Spacemen 3 couldn’t accommodate both of them.

Spiritualized  Lazer Guided Melodies originalThere was also propitious timing. Lazer Guided Melodies emerged just before the Britpop tropes were codified. Suede would be lauded in 1993, Blur’s Modern Life Is Rubbish emerged the next year and Oasis were going like gangbusters in 1994. As Spiritualized had already defined who they were, they escaped being buried under the Britpop groundswell. Had Lazer Guided Melodies arrived in 1993, it and any follow-ups may have been lost.

Nothing needs saying about what’s on the album as, as it turns out, it sounds enviably fresh. It was last out on vinyl in 2010. The new reissue has a white colour-coded sleeve instead of the original black (pictured above left), is pressed on white vinyl and comes in a gatefold where the original had single sleeve. Beyond the packaging, the sound further sets this apart from a first pressing. Half-speed mastering has brought additional clarity and presence to what was already superb sounding.

This is the first of a series of reissues of Spiritualized’s studio albums, raising the question of whether the non-album material and live albums will also be repackaged. Initial copies of Lazer Guided Melodies came with a seven-inch of “Anyway That you Want me” and “Why Don’t you Smile Now”: a repress is not included with the new reissue. There’s a lot more to Spiritualized than the studio albums.

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