Release date: 5/19/2023
Limited edition 2xLP. First re-press since initial release May, 1998.
1. Bowery Electric - Things'll Never Be The Same
2. Amp - So Hot (Wash Away All Of My Tears)
3. The Asteriod #4 - Losing Touch With My Mind
4. Piano Magic - How Does It Feel
5. Mogwai - Honey
6. Transient Waves - Billy Whizz
7. Flowchart - Ode To The Street Hassle
8. Fuxa - Amen
9. Accelera Deck - I Believe It
10. Arab Strap - Revolution
11. Bardo Pond - Call The Doctor
12. Frontier - Hey Man
13. Low - Lord, Can You Hear Me?
Widely acclaimed at the time of its release (garnering rave reviews in the UK, US, Canadian and European music weeklies and monthlies), the collection sounds as fresh and inventive as it did three decades ago. Launched at a time when tribute albums were prevalent, A Tribute to Spacemen 3 stands apart from other covers albums in that it not only redecorates S3’s songs in a bold new palette of colours, but also acts as a time capsule documenting a very specific wave of 90s US and UK bands that shared many sensibilities – ‘post-rock’ might be the catch-all genre, but their music also encompassed psych, slowcore, analogue electronica, dream pop and space rock to varying degrees – and many of whom (Mogwai, Low, Arab Strap, Bardo Pond) have gone on to reap major critical and commercial success, and are still thriving today. In 1998 the LP was a gateway for fans of Spacemen 3 to discover these relatively unknown experimental artists operating on small independent labels either side of the Atlantic – today it is a celebration of the timeless innovation and longevity of that scene.
As author Richard Milward states in Rocket Girl 20, the 2019 book illuminating the history of the label: ‘In no way is [the LP] a collection of imitators simply regurgitating Spacemen 3’s songs sound-for-sound – rather, the compilation celebrates the purity and bravery of Pierce’s and Kember’s song writing (themselves never averse to a transformative cover version) while showcasing the originality and diversity of those bands they have inspired.’ It is the simultaneous simplicity and otherworldliness of S3’s songs that make them perfect fodder for reinterpretation, the band’s ‘three chords good, two chords better, one chord best’ mantra providing a solid, tantalising foundation for these bands to experiment with freely. Throbbing and humming with equal parts euphoria and melancholia, over the course of the album’s 69 minutes the tracks slide from slithering stoner psych (Asteroid #4’s ‘Losing Touch With My Mind’) to hymnal delicacy (Amp’s ‘So Hot (Wash Away All of My Tears)’ and Mogwai’s crisp, glockenspiel-chiming ‘Honey’) to zero-gravity lounge jazz (Transient Waves’ closer, ‘Billy Whizz’). There are radical reworkings: the oozing fuzztone lava of Bardo Pond’s ‘Call the Doctor’, and not least Arab Strap’s startling take on S3 live mainstay ‘Revolution’, replete with aggressive, crunching drum machine and the lyrics delivered down the telephone in Aidan Moffatt’s laconic Falkirk drawl – ‘a change, a solution, a wee… a wee revolution’ – before its explosive climax.
A bonus addition to the original tracklisting, Füxa’s ‘Amen’ nestles seamlessly between Flowchart’s off-kilter lullaby-like ‘Ode to Street Hassle’ and Accelera Deck’s uplifting ‘I Believe It’. Purely instrumental through the 1990s, Rocket Girl stalwarts Füxa have employed various vocalists and experimented with cover versions in recent years, and founding member Randall Nieman provides his own voice for this transcendent take on ‘Amen’, the pulsating synths and defiant refrain (‘I don’t mind dying Lord… Amen, Amen, Amen…’) exemplifying what made Spacemen 3’s music so special: the blissful purity of repetition, and the ever sincere, everlasting call to take themselves – and the listener – higher.
Since its release, A Tribute to Spacemen 3 has not only opened the ears of S3 fans to these kindred artists, but also caught the attention of the Spacemen themselves. After hearing Low’s elegantly faithful rendition of ‘Lord, Can You Hear Me?’ – a track that feels all the more heart-rending today, after Low vocalist and drummer Mimi Parker’s passing in 2022 – Jason Pierce was inspired to rerecord the song himself for Spiritualized’s 2001 LP Let it Come Down, and reached out to Parker to provide backing vocals. As he told Electric Sound: ‘Her voice was astonishing. It was so pure it was like a soundwave.’
A Tribute to Spacemen 3 remains Rocket Girl’s fastest seller, the original 1000 glittery vinyl and 1000 CD box sets (the first 50 with bonus keyring and incense sticks, the ever-present scent at Rocket Girl HQ) having sold out rapidly upon release. While the 1998 artwork depicted the iconic S3 transmitter logo in silver foil on a sleek black background, the 2023 reissue recasts the sleeve in an aluminium-effect sheen, suggestive of a space rocket: the symbol that links both the Rugby band and this label. It is a special pairing. In reissuing the record, Rocket Girl once again invites fans of Spacemen 3 to discover these like-minded artists that have since become seminal in their own right – and today, the reverse is equally likely: fans may well pick up this LP on account of its inclusion of bands like Mogwai, Low or Bardo Pond and, through it, initiate themselves into the intoxicating world of Spacemen 3, a group whose bold legacy and influence shows no sign of fading…
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