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Articles Home » 1998 Articles » Spacehog - 1998 The Chinese Album
 
Spacehog - 1998 The Chinese Album



ARTIST: Spacehog
ALBUM: The Chinese Album
LABEL: Sire
SERIAL: 9 46851-2
YEAR: 1998

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Royston Langdon - bass, vocals * Antony Langdon - guitars, vocals * Jonny Cragg - drums * Richard Steel - lead guitar

TRACK LISTING: 01 One Of These Days * 02 Goodbye Violet Race * 03 Lucy's Shoe * 04 Mungo City * 05 Skylark * 06 Sand In Your Eyes * 07 Captain Freeman * 08 2nd Avenue * 09 Almond Kisses * 10 Carry On * 11 Anonymous * 12 Beautiful Girl

WEBLINKS: www.spacehog.com


Background
Spacehog are one of those few bands although from England were much more successful in America, whether that is due to their albums or solely due to the fact that Royston was once married to Liv Tyler I'm not so sure, but I would hope that it's the musical aspect that provides the ingredient for notoriety. This group were on my radar from 1995, after gaining a couple of cd singles but for one reason or another I never brought the albums, that was until recently, first it was their debut, 'Resident Alien', released in 1995.When I first listened to this my visions and motives of Spacehog became blurred, this was not what I remembered, although this became clearer when I played this their follow up, and I saw see the light right near the end of the album, but more of that later.


The Songs
The start to 'One Of These Days' is like an outtake of Coolio's 'Gangsta's Paradise' from the film, Dangerous Minds , crackling vinyl effects, quite a strange opening track, lots of effects, like an early Muse demo, and that's a thinly veiled recommendation.

'Goodbye Violet Race' is maybe a more suited opening if trying to attract a melodic rock community, but they are walking they own line.

Next a takeover of Mika, with 'Lucy's Shoe' which has one of these starts that appears that you have walked in late and they are at the third line of the first verse. A touch of Axl Rose (Is it me who only liked The Chinese Democracy?) in the strained vocal can be heard if you sieve through what is going on here. Of course in this instance when the reviewer is faced with something strange, it's a requirement to mention Queen or early Roxy Music to get one out of a hole, but for once I feel this is not just being a lazy but a fair assessment. I love the walk of the Cleopatra film segment that crops up towards the end. With highlighting Queen, this is more Freddie Mercury, with 'My Melancholy Blues', so don't expect Brian May ripping through my favourite Queen track ever being 'March Of The Black Queen'.

'Mungo City' continues a one speed approach that is being used, to give a feeling of parts of music stringed together, there is more guitar riffing, its' all very 70's, just as the classic children's TV programme, Mary, Mungo and Midge! obviously this is a tribute to that dog with the big nose, that lived in a tower block. Probably most accessible and instant as to what has gone before. And could easily appear on a David Bowie album, with one of those Mick Ronson shiny suits, Marc Bolan or at a stretch Mott The Hoople.

'Skylark' is a pretty awful attempt at The Beatles silliness, this is just missing Ringo on vocals, so you get the gist, pass over very quickly. Look 10cc can pull this off, but not you guys, well not yet.

Again strains of early Muse with 'Sand In Your Eyes', it provides a suitable structure to build on, in fact so secure you could build one of Egyptian pyramids, in fact it has a chain gang rhythm attached to the foundations.

A 60's beat comes your way in the disguise of 'Captain Freeman', it's a power pop attempt, but's it's like asking Peter Griffin what is the fastest ever speed he has driven, the answer being '88 miles per hour, I'd had gone faster, but I ended up in 1955', ok 1950's, might as well has been the 1960's.

'2nd Avenue' is an improvement, you would had thought they have manage to rope in Elvis Costello to appear in the chorus, while the verse strangely seems to follow that old folk song of 'Streets Of London' by Ralph McTell, for some reason I always favoured the cover by the Anti-Nowhere League.

Then we are on the receiving end of 'Almond Kisses', not much fun if you suffer from a nut allergy. This rolls out a tune that the first half of the song is as sweetly as Circulus, and this definition is fine until they add the odd guitar break.

All good things seem sometimes to be at the arse end, and I don't just mean Australia (yes they are really pumped up to win the Ashes in three.. this was written before Perth), because the near perfect song being 'Carry On', can discovered here. A cross between Jellyfish, Redd Kross, The Feeling and even a bit of flamboyance in The Darkness, excellent. This track has always been my abiding memory of Spacehog, it came out when the rock world was very dark and morbid, but this was the star that I referred to in my introduction, as in one of the stories told by Helloween, 'it's shining so bright'.

They rattle out a couple more songs, but I'm already satisfied with 'Carry On'.


In Summary
I've not seen such a pick and mix of songs, since Woolworths went out of business, thank you Mr Banker and chums. An album you can get easily immersed into and for a time forget about the havoc that lay around you, that is defined as normal life, your setting becomes oblivious and its only when it ends that you realise you need to put the rubbish out for collection, which bin was is it for this week, the recycling or the other? If this had appeared in the 70's on the Decca or Charisma label, you would have people sitting round on cushions discussing the merits of this album on late night TV, it would have a downright snobbery value and be issued in a series of limited edition vinyl by Record Collector, and guess what this can be yours for a little as under a pound on any cd trader site. It created a mark on the musical landscape, while others have tried to rub it out, it still remains, and is such not such a irremovable scar but a happy vista. At the same time this is not a comfortable album to like, it can be difficult, although if you want to test yourself, be open to a musical monologue that will thrill you, stretch your understanding, then it can be a very rewarding listen. Spacehog every now and then re-renter the musical atmosphere, and their most recent sighting was in 2013, when they re-grouped and release their fourth album by the name of 'As It Is On Earth', I haven't caught up with that and on past experience, I probably won't until the year 2028.


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Comments
#1 | AOR Lee on December 16 2013 04:54:18
Sold a fair few copies of this one back in 1998, to our more discerning 'modern rock' customers. Definitely a good few notches above the typical 90's dross we were bombarded with
#2 | Eric on December 16 2013 17:42:08
Nice review Chris and agree with Lee, much to like here although it should have been a bigger album than it was. File with Sugarbomb.
 
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