Spacemen 3 – Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs to (Bomp! BCD 4047 1994 [1990/2000])
Originally released in 1990 on vinyl by Father Yod records, Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs to was re-released in 1994 on CD in an expanded form that included basically double the amount of original material, and then in 2000 another reissue tacked on a cover of The Red Crayola‘s “Transparent Radiation” (an alternate version of the band’s single). The original 7 tracks released in 1990 were demos recorded at the home studio of Carlo Marocco in Piddington, outside Northampton, in January 1986. They are often referred to as the “Northampton Demos.” Those demos led to a record deal, and most of the demo songs were re-recorded for their debut album Sound of Confusion. The tracks appended on reissues in 1994 and 2000 were recorded later, but the exact provenance of them is unclear.
These demos and outtakes end up being superior to the studio counterparts. This belongs to be listed alongside the likes of the demos on disc one of The Jesus & Mary Chain‘s The Power of Negative Thinking: B-Sides & Rarities, and Bobby Womack‘s “Across 110th Street” demo, as being more classic than the formal studio recordings. In this case, the title of the album is appropriate (a bit like the M-C-M formula). This stuff is tripped out and psychedelic, but also crisper and more focused than much of the band’s studio output. Frankly, this is the best that the band had to offer. Listeners will definitely want one of the expanded reissues, because the additional tracks are very worthwhile.
Spacemen 3 – Sound of Confusion Glass GLALP 018 (1986)
Wow! An early name of The Stooges was “The Psychedelic Stooges” and that well fits what you have here. Take the monster riffs of The Stooges and then trip out like The 13th Floor Elevators or Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd and you’ll end up with Sound of Confusion. It’s a rather simple formula, but its no less powerful and enthralling for it. More proof that the 1980s produced plenty of great rock and roll if you were willing to look left of the dial.
Spacemen 3 – The Perfect Prescription Glass GLALP 026 (1987)
Spacemen 3 were hardly the most original rock group. They wore their influences on their sleeves. On their debut, Sound of Confusion, the effect was a jolt of pure slacker charm. The Stooges, The 13th Floor Elevators, these groups were channeled with the gawkish, unashamed enthusiasm of a most wonderfully unadulterated kind. Any why not? It suited the music. Here on The Perfect Prescription, the influences have shifted to The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, even gospel music, processed through slightly jangly contemporary British psychedelia of the likes of The Teardrop Explodes, with a more lethargic, down-tempo groove. This certainly set the stage for the next decade’s “Brit pop”, which you could consider an asset or a liability. This one is a disappointment though. Could these guys even play? You have to wonder with the tuneless vocals on display. The band seems to maybe start taking themselves seriously. Snotty music that originated not far from the garage welcomed—no, deserved—to be resurrected with ridiculously faithful and inept 1980s recreations. It was a proud declaration, “We have learned nothing in the intervening years!” But the kinds of music with bigger aspirations that Spacemen 3 investigate on this album don’t quiet react well to similar treatment. You can add acid to water, but not water to acid. It’s the same with this music. The irreverent treatment of the serious rock influences has the basic equation backwards, at least when lacking a sense of humor and recognition of the absurdity in doing it that way. Ah, so it goes. The Perfect Prescription does advocate for a new rhythm of drugged out rock, and for that it deserves some credit amidst its own shambolic, desultory downward spiral.