If Liverpool band Space had arrived just five years later, they might have stood more of a chance. As it stands, their 1996 debut came out just in time to catch the Britpop wave. Their stronger, second album Tin Planet – a real achievement in songwriting and production – was the one that lost out. Released in 1998 among the other dregs of Britpop – Embrace’s The Good Will Out, Pulp’s This Is Hardcore and The Bluetones’ Return To The Last Chance Saloon – it might not have had much in the way of competition, but it was certainly a dull time for British music; the start of the comedown years.
Space’s quirky sound is a real mixing pot of influences, partly driven by an admiration for Cyprus Hill’s bass-driven grooves and use of sampling. Vocalist and (on this record) bassist Tommy Scott is a huge fan of soundtracks and scores, hence the ‘universal’ feel of the lyrics. Guitarist Jamie Murphy is a typical Britpop / Indie kid (and looks the most like he could be in any guitar band of the mid-90s). Keyboard player Franny Griffiths handles the samples and synthesisers, providing the genre-crossing, EDM-friendly sound that sets them apart from the rest of Britpop. Drummer Andy Parle, who sadly died in unexplained circumstances in 2009, completes the line-up.
Most people will recognise Female Of The Species, the latino, sample-driven song about female dominance. Initially used as the theme song to the British TV show, Cold Feet, it charted at #14 in the UK charts, and remains the band’s signature piece.
If anything, the album quickly overstays its welcome at a far too long 52 minutes. As a result there are three or four songs that feel tacked on to side two that could easily be expunged. Tin Planet is also a little baggy in this area (49 minutes), and suggests that the band were not great at editing themselves.
Unfortunately, Tin Planet never made it to vinyl. Spiders has only been issued once on the format for its 1996 release, and for a picture-disc reissue in 2016. I had to trawl Discogs for this expensive first pressing, which has a weird misprint on the second side causing the needle to sway from side to side while tracking. Given the eclectic sound of the band, it’s hard to spot the slightly phased sound from anything they’ve done to the songs themselves.
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