Review Summary: Things were never the same...
Spacemen 3 are a phenomenon. There is no band quite as druggy as Spacemen 3, and I mean that wholeheartedly. Countless bands will sing about the mind-altering effects of every substance you could create in an AP Chem class, but no one did it quite like Spacemen 3. By taking the Suicide ethic of one-chord blues, and conversely using maximalism overtop to simulate the infinite layers of a trip, they developed a sound often imitated, but never replicated. It's difficult to even describe what you're in for when you first hear Spacemen 3; I used to play bits of Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs to
every now and then, but never actually had the guts to dive into that ocean of druggy noise. While that early piece of noise is mostly successful in its grime-y and impenetrable filth, the Perfect Prescription
succeeds in that it shows the beautiful stages of the different levels of a high. From energetic and hazy highs, to downbeat and drone-y lows, Spacemen 3 perfectly crafted the definitive drug-rock album.
The album kicks off with a band with the energetic and exciting "Take Me to the Other Side." Obviously meant to represent the initial feeling of the first part of a high, the album quickly segues into "Walkin' with Jesus," which represents the seemingly endless ecstasy of the trip. From here, the album constantly goes up and down in a rollercoaster feeling. But, each song acts as a plateau of the phase it might represent. Dynamic shifts are rare, chord changes are exceedingly rare, but the songs differ wildly as the album continues on. Opening with jittery excitement (Take me to the Other Side, Walkin' With Jesus), and slowly diluting to a warm drone of ecstasy (Ecstasy Symphony/Transparent Radiation), then firing into a paranoid fuzz-fest (Things'll Never Be the Same), and then dropping to calm fear of an OD (Call the Doctor), The Perfect Prescription
perfectly crafts a drug story like no other.
What's so perfect about Spacemen 3 in general though, is their clashing of minimalism and maximalism. They may base their songs on single chords, but the sheer amount of sound on this album is unlike anything you will ever hear. Take "Feel So Good" for instance, where only a few lines are repeated, and two chords are repeated. But, the song doesn't necessarily feel repetitive; it feels high. The layers of guitars, the layers of horns, the warm organ tones; it all converges to feel like a warm drift through space and time. Similarly, "Things'll Never be the Same" is like a filthy version of the previous song. Based on a stupidly simple riff that lingers underground, while J Spaceman rants about the life he's chosen as an addict, and the layers of wah-guitar and cymbal swells add to the constant intensity of the piece. It's one of the haziest pieces of music you'll ever hear; truly the sound of confusion.
What Spacemen 3 accomplished here is something few bands will ever accomplish in their lifetime. This album definitely stands as one of the most impenetrable and sonically amazing albums I've ever had the pleasure of hearing, regardless of the concept. The concept adds an extra layer of cool, but even if you just listen for the sounds, you're still likely to be blown away by the beautiful grime that they effortlessly crafted on this timeless effort. Things never were the same...