Space – Attack Of The Mutant 50ft Kebab (2014)
OK, Cards on the table, I was a huge admirer of Space in the nineties. Their unique brand of skewed, wacky indie pop produced two classic albums, “Spiders” and “Tin Planet”, both of which were brilliantly imperfect and had songs ranging from total genius to utterly terrible. Despite their obvious flaws, I found them impossible to dislike and “Tin Planet” was one of my very favourite and certainly most well-played albums of 1998. I’m sure that hardcore Space fans will be eager to disagree with me, but I was very disappointed with their “Suburban Rock ‘n’ Roll” comeback album of 2004 and their disappearance from the music scene afterwards was no real shock to me. After re-forming in 2011, their reappearance as a touring outfit last year with a slightly tweaked line-up was extremely welcome and I was able to catch a brilliant live show at London’s Borderline venue, re-igniting my love of the band and whetting my appetite for the promised new album, the almost wince-inducingly titled “Attack Of The Mutant 50ft Kebab”. I approached the album with more than a little trepidation; is this album, featuring an almost comically-grotesque Tommy Scott-drawn album cover, going to be as good as their irresistibly eclectic nineties best? The answer is yes, sort of.
“Tear Drops From The Moon”, a tale of urban fear, provides a musically explosive and rather promising start to the album. Lead single, the slightly wonky-sounding “Fortune Teller”, resplendent with Theremin, movie sound effects and references to Doctor Who and Harry Potter, was a little harder to love at first, but repeat plays help this almost annoyingly catchy track worm its way under the skin. The superb “Armageddon” immediately reminds me of Fun Boy Three’s “The Lunatics (Have Taken Over The Asylum)” and has a deliciously spooky organ solo and the melodramatic “Frightened Horses” has the feel of a song from the “Pulp Fiction” soundtrack, or a contemporary spaghetti western. The lyrics of the ludicrously loopy title track are hilarious, all underpinned by relentlessly, frenetic almost frighteningly bouncy music; it’s the title song of a B-movie just waiting to be made. The first slight disappointment on the album comes in the form of “Falling In Love (All Over Again)” which, despite it’s jaunty ska-influenced organ and brief Stylophone solo, feels a little ordinary compared to the mad-professor creativity displayed on the rest of the songs.
“Crying On The Webcam” has a dark, creepy feel to it, the music as detached as the images described in the lyrics; this nightmarish tale is quietly brilliant. “Day Of The Dead”, loosely based on the Mexican “Dia de Muertos”, however, doesn’t quite hit the mark, feeling more contrived than inspired and “Guest List To Hell” is a bit too messy and difficult to follow to really enjoy as well. The soul-less “Happy Clowns”, sung by keyboardist Ryan Clark, also fails to convince and, unfortunately, combined with the last couple of songs starts to sound like a mid-album slump, but thankfully the catchy “Anthony’s Brainwaves”, presumably about someone in a coma, is instantly lovable and “She’s In Love With A Boy In A Bodybag” is the perfect companion-piece to “Anthony’s Brainwaves”, concluding the album respectfully. Unfortunately, the second half of the album is distinctly weaker than the first which means that, although they have evolved and their sound is notably different to their nineties peak, Space haven’t changed all that much; they’re still the product of a brilliantly inventive mind with questionable quality control, a mixture of mercurial little gems side-by-side with clumsily overblown half-ideas.
Their down-to-earth “everyman” charm, name-checking places like Primark, Burger King and Cash Convertors, juxtaposed with the musical result of Scott’s love for macabre themes and classic cinema soundtracks certainly mean that there aren’t any other acts out there like Space… whether you think that is a good thing depends on your personal taste. In my opinion, I think that is a very good thing indeed and it’s great to have them back. One thing that is a little confusing – my CD has the songs in a completely different order to the track listing on the booklet and album cover. I really don’t know if this is a mistake or was a last minute change to the running order, but either way, it makes for a slightly confusing first listen, until you realise what has happened. The actual running order (whether this has happened to all CD copies, I don’t know) is:
1. Teardrops From The Moon
2. Fortune Teller
4. Frightened Horses
5. Attack Of The Mutant 50ft Kebab
6. Falling In Love (All Over Again)
7. Crying On The Webcam
8. Day Of The Dead
9. Guest List To Hell
10. Happy Clowns
11. Anthony’s Brainwaves
12. She’s In Love With A Boy In A Bodybag
So, it may be worth checking that the right track names are on the right songs if, like me, you rip your CD onto iTunes or any other media player – as well as making sure that you know which track you’re listening to when you first hear the album, of course!