“Rarely has a band marched quite so brazenly to its own beat as Space. We’ll spare you the obligatory career summary (“Female of the Species”, Tin Planet etc. etc.) and get down to picking apart their fifth album Attack of the 50ft Kebab, easily the best kebab-based title you’ll encounter this year.
Unless Babylon Zoo reform as Kebabylon Zoo, or David Gray releases a song called “Kebabylon”. Which they’re both somewhat unlikely to.
Anyway, Attack of the Mutant 50ft Kebab contains some of Space’s sauciest, spiciest and most succulent songs to date, and that’s saying something given the number of absolutely top-notch tunes they’ve racked up over the years.
You know, back in their ’90s heyday (oh look, we’re going off on a tangent), Space were treated with suspicion and sometimes even contempt by those whose tastes had been swung towards Radiohead/Verve-style melancholia, quite possibly in reaction to the extended fanfare of Britpop.
Space, however, were a total anomaly of a band if there ever was one – a renegade balloon floating alongside Britpop’s bloated blimp only through chronological happenstance.
You try and find someone now who isn’t enthused by hearing those old hits once again. “Female of the Species” still sounds as heavenly and exotic, “Neighbourhood” still as swaggering, “The Ballad of Tom Jones” still as elatingly daft and deceptively sophisticated…
…and that’s without factoring in the joys abundant on their unreleased (and sadly disowned) third album Love You More Than Football, and their by-turns-sinister-and-luxurious 2004 LP Suburban Rock ‘n’ Roll.
(Each description given above should be framed by the knowledge that it all sounds as if it was spiked with some crazy cartoon acid or other.)
Sorry for going off on those tangents. Funnily enough – and we’re rather pleased with this segue – Attack of the Mutant 50ft Kebab is comfortably Space’s least tangential LP to date.
In a sense it’s a shame because their schizophrenic approach to songwriting was always such a part of their charm. On the other hand, they’ve finally turned in a record that’s cohesive, concise and all those sorts of things.
The incorporation of Tommy Scott’s erstwhile Drellas bandmates Allan Jones (drums), Phil Hartley (bass) and Ryan Clarke (organ) has steered Space in something of a ska-punk direction, all lovingly sprinkled with time-honoured hallmarks courtesy of Franny Griffiths’s sci-fi keys.
Hartley and Clarke frequently pop up with ingenious, occasionally hilarious, backing vocals – see the insanely infectious likes of “She’s in Love with the Boy in the Body Bag”, “Attack of the Mutant 50ft Kebab” and campy, deceptively sophisticated opener “Teardrops from the Moon”, the melodic glee of which is tempered with classic Scott lyrics about street gangs, falling bombs and the moon as a “single tearful eye”.
Preceding singles “Fortune Teller” and “Frightened Horses” are both utterly ace, but then we’ve covered those before (here and here). We could bang on about how “Guest List to Hell” sounds like a classic ’80s hit, or how the closing pair of “Falling in Love (All Over Again)” and “Day of the Dead” classen up the joint so consummately, but that’s for you to discover.
For now, let’s just rejoice at the return of an all-too-underappreciated band, and hope that they don’t leave it so long next time.”
Rocksucker Review, March 2014