Formed in 1982 in the town of Rugby by Pete Kember (Sonic Boom) and Jason Pierce, Spacemen 3 were to become one of the most important bands of the eighties, with their offshoots destined to spread out and become equally as vital in the nineties.
Their debut album "Sound Of Confusion", released in 1986, was a blistering affair - establishing their love of the two-chord song and also expressing their admiration for the likes of MC5, The 13th Floor Elevators and The Stooges. Sound of Confusion was 7 tracks of overdriven assault, with a strange bleakness and despair creeping through the hypnotic sprawl. R Hunter Gibson would later say: "It boosts the value of unlit rooms, unpaid debts and unfeigned terror and it would rather tackle the gradients than settle for level best."
"The Perfect Prescription" followed a year later and with it Spacemen 3 edged away from the full-on feel of their debut. "Walking With Jesus", "Feels So Good", "Things'll Never Be The Same" et al managed to retain the power of their earlier writings, but they also had a soft-focus dreamlike nature about them, drawing the listener far closer into their world and reminding us of how horrific that world could be, never more so than on "Call The Doctor". "If 'Sound Of Confusion' denied the wider stretches of the senses in favour of the immediately, roughly sensual, this script panned out from some suburban global village Viet vet subculture into a poppyfield undersown with righteous paranoia. And still the smell of burning rubber on trash Yankee wheels thickens the air..." wrote R Hunter Gibson.
By now, the drug usage of Spacemen 3 was seemingly as important as the music. The press was full of tales and exploits, every interview with them was littered with references and the pressures were beginning to tell on the band. The drummer quit and the bass player was kicked out, to be replaced by Willie Carruthers. They headed to Cornwall to record the next record with no drummer, sub-standard equipment and a lot of tension. The resultant album "Playing With Fire", however, was an irrefutable classic.
"An extraordinary record.... an artefact pulsating with a knowledge of its own graceful strengths" was how Chris Roberts described it, while Michael Bonner chose to wax "It was a morphine dream, an altered state, using delicate, eliptical sonic textures to a point of near abstraction. The songs dripped with soft-focus, honeyed melodies; you could glide through the cotton-wool guitar chimes or surrender to the gentle euphoria of the two-note organ riffs..." All told, an amazing album by a band so close to self-destruction.
The band toured Europe for a major part of 1989, taking their trademark "Anti-Show" to new levels, but a proposed US tour in the fall never came to be, cancelled as it was on the back of previous drug busts. Those shows were the last Spacemen 3 would ever play, as by now the tension between Sonic and Jason were so great that couldn't even communicate with each other. Interviews with the press had to be conducted separately and perhaps most tellingly of all, their swan-song album "Recurring" was divided rigidly into two - Sonic's songs on one side, Jason's on the other. Released in 1990, "Recurring" was a remarkable album in own right. Sonic's songs seemed to embrace the emerging dance culture, using his unique drones and drawls to invoke the same sense of euphoria of the wider scene, while Jason focussed on cultivating the "neo-gospel trance-rock" which was so prominent on "Playing With Fire", and which would figure so heavily in his post-Spacemen band Spritualized.
It was a sad end for "one of the most mind-altering, music expanding British bands of the last 20 years", but the legacy they leave behind is so fine, that we simply have to be grateful that they ever graced us with their presence at all.