Dancing with Spiders from Space

Space guitarist James Space
with Muse
The Starfish Room
Vancouver, B.C.
Monday, June 9, 1997

Review by Darren Kerr
Photography by Rodney Gitzel

Everybody has bands that they love which have become footnotes, bands for magazines like Mojo, Ptolemaic Terrascope and, once in a cream cheese moon, Rolling Stone or Spin to write an inspired piece on every four or five years. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band was one of these. Alex Harvey was a hybrid of Keith Moon-ish schoolboy mischief and leprechaun malevolence, and Space, from Liverpool, is the only entity I've come across that can carry that long dormant torch, the one to combine the leer of Fagin, the cheeky confidence of the Artful Dodger and the menace of Bill Sykes into one creatively wicked band. On their maiden album, Spiders, Space put Western pop icons into a taffy puller, add calypso and cabaret, reggae and mop-top, fake vampire teeth and pop rocks to come up with a pastiche of fresh tunes and sounds that'll cling to your thing for days.

Space bassist Tommy But first we have to bask in the lukewarmth of Muse, who take all the elements of pop that I like -- noisy, heavily-effected guitars, big, bad and bouncy drums and that cool "I'm choking on sentiment" voice -- and mold them into something dull and shapeless. The singer sounded like Brett Anderson, fey and nasally, and of course very British... sad thing is, these guys are from Miami. The guitars were total Corgan and Iha, with octave notes being the mode of the day. I quite liked the drummer who flogged the skins in the style of Ginger Baker or, to be more recent, Reef's Domenic Greensmith. I didn't like the band's set all that much, though, because I'll be damned if I could distinguish any one song from any other song.

Space, on the other hand, put on an incredibly strong show. They opened with the keyboard-driven guitar-stomper "Me and You vs. the World" and never let up until the last encore, which was, er, "Me and You vs. the World."

Space keyboardist Franny You could not tear your eyes from the stage, and even the fidgety stared transfixed by the lads from Liverpool. Singers Tommy and James were very charismatic. The former had a presence like Keith Moon drunk on clockwork orange, lunging forward and leaping all over the place, all the while his voice never wavering. The latter elicited a cool bohemian quality with his hat barely above his eyes and shocks of curly red hair hanging out. "We're not English. We're scouses, scouses come from Venus," he said lasciviously, tongue firmly in cheek.

It's hard to put into words just how good this show was. Franny, the keyboard player, was grinning like a cheshire cat. It is his synth lines which provide colour and atmosphere, especially in tonight's rendition of "Neighbourhood," which featured his eerie science fiction theremin-type sounds. Near the conclusion, he was given the spotlight all to himself as the rest of the band left the stage, leaving him to perform their sole true techno song "Growler." Talking indecipherables through his headset microphone, Franny was a moon-faced DJ serving up the break beats.

Space keyboardist Franny The crowd really got into the show -- I didn't even write any notes because I was too busy dancing like everyone else -- and the band fed off that energy. "Dark Clouds" felt like an 80's classic with its chorus projecting big around the room. "No One Understands" and "Voodoo Roller" rocked hard with drummer Andy's snare and tom dexterity; in fact, Andy was rock solid throughout the whole set. After two encores (including, by request, the opening song again, played with even more verve and vigour than before), people left the Starfish drenched in sweat and their musical appetites totally sated.

Screw the whole Oasis vs. Blur dogfight and get yerself a copy of Spiders, 'cause Space are the shit... really!

First published in Drop-D Magazine on June 26, 1997

Index | Search | E-mail | Info | Copyright

Considering copying some of the images from this story?
Please read this first. Thanks.