Album review by firstname.lastname@example.org
Former Spacemen 3 and The Darkside man ROSCO surprised and delighted us back in January with his single 'Give Peace Another Chance'. It wasn't droning, druggy space-rock, it was what could loosely be termed an indie/pop song. Filled with optimism, it told us that "anything was possible" while bringing a sweet melody with it, but if you were expecting an album of similarly sugary delights then you might be out of luck. If you're hoping for a diverse showcase of the man's many musical influences and talents (as well as that soft voice, he's a talented multi-instrumentalist) then you're in luck. Although not one of the main writers in Spacemen 3, he did contribute to their classic album 'The Perfect Prescription', and although that was over 25 years ago we have the right to expect something with a certain amount of substance.
Consider expectations met. Before the aforementioned single we get 'Interplanetary Spaceliner', another faultless journey through the solar system that follows the path first opened up by Joe Meek and The Tornadoes with 'Telstar', not in terms of sound, but definitely in terms of vibe. This isn't deep space, it's the twinkly unknown areas of our own solar system; out there, but not "far-out". 'The Girl From Orbit' continues on this trip to pop music from a different dimension. This is another pretty and stunning song; those vocals are matched by the restrained instrumentation. There's a lot going on here but nothing is allowed to take over. The constant hum of organ will please those who favour less intense drones, and a whopping great chorus that's about as stately as they come is impossible not to fall for. In the background we hear electronic swooshes and sweeps and bleeps, all kept subdued in the mix. These sounds don't need to be rammed down your throat, they'll be picked up like distant stars and feel all the more magical for it.
There's no question the man can write single material when he needs to, and fashion it so it doesn't fit any scene or style in particular. Is it psychedelic? Pop? Indie? Experimental? Well, yeah, but those words can mean just about anything. We're promised (and it may be expected given his musical background and film work) more experimental and ambient sound collages. So step forward side 2 and 'Asteroid No. B 612', a subtle drone that gently drifts past, as though you're in a half-awake twilight zone, watching galaxies drift by in the distance. Use of the word "cosmic" might conjure up memories of Rodney's catchphrase in 'Only Fools & Horses', but it's also the perfect summary of this piece. 'Island Of Ether' could maybe be considered closer to what people may expect from ambient psychedelia, but the Eastern flavour is a nice touch, and this could be from a film score.
Then we bow out with the quadruple whammy (as in they're merged into one song) of 'Tripmaker' (A Seeds cover that here sounds somewhere between Syd Barrett, Roky Erickson and the more forward thinking tracks from the 'Nuggets' compilations), a song that sticks out on this side of the album as it has genuine single/radio play potential; then 'Outskirts Of Infinity' with its darker atmosphere and spooky outlook; and finally 'Counter Clock World' and 'Time Is Of The Essence' where it's hard to define where one ends and the other begins. If comparisons were to be drawn to this use of innovative sounds to paint a mental picture (and despite moments of darkness this is very colourful) then the most obvious would be to the work of former bandmate Sonic Boom and his solo post-Spacemen projects. How this sits with ROSCO we don't know. He may want to continue what his band started, in which case this comparison is certainly a compliment, but side 1 of this album proves that he's just as interested in writing more conventional songs, and what songs they are. The Darkside certainly had their moments (and it's great that Pete 'Bassman' Bain will be featuring live on these tunes soon), but ROSCO as masterful space-pop songwriter of this calibre may be a surprise to some, yet listening to the beauty found here you'd have to say that it could be the perfect description.
Stream or buy the album
Catch him live:
5th Oct with Damo Suzuki at Shacklewell Arms, London, UK
6th Nov Water Rats Kings Cross , London, UK
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