SPACEMEN 3: Sound Of Confusion (LP, Glass GLALP 018, 1986)

Spacemen 3 - Sound Of ConfusionAh, don’t they look so young on the cover of this album? Although having said that, Sonic Boom has aged surprisingly well, and doesn’t look too much older 25 years later than he does on the front of this record. In my opinion the photograph on the back cover of Sound Of Confusion should have been the front – it’s great, showing the band staring into the middle distance whilst swathed in multicoloured psychedelic projected light. Very cool.

I like the lettering style used on the cover – it’s a slightly refined version of a very typical style that was used all over a lot of psychedelic posters from the 1960s onwards. It’s a surprisingly straightforward style to recreate: consider that each letter is made of a single square block, and then consider removing oval shapes from within, to build up the negative space that creates the letterforms. For a while, once I’d cracked the trick to quickly and easily use this style, I used it a lot on gig posters and lettering that I was doing in the early 1990s, and even felt proficient enough to paint my own Spacemen 3 t-shirt, freehand, with the band name lettering as per this record cover, and the Spacemen 3 logo that would appear on later records. Somewhere, I think, I still have this t-shirt. For a brief period I got very into painting my own t-shirts, and produced them not with the Spacemen 3 logo, but also the Huggy Bear lettering from their first single, and the Love logo featured on their albums. The Love t-shirt was so well regarded that I was commissioned at least twice to paint similar t-shirts for others!

I bought this record second hand quite some time ago. Within the sleeve is the original insert that came with the release – allowing the owner to send off for a copy of the limited ‘Live’ 12″, containing recordings from a performance at Amsterdam’s Melkweg club in 1988. As the insert puts it, the Melkweg is ‘a well known drinking and hashish club’. Whoever previously owned the record had cut off and returned the form to claim this record; I wonder who it was? Did they enjoy the record? I own a copy of the ‘Live’ 12″, which I bought separately and second hand. Who knows, maybe the person who previously owned this Sound Of Confusion also previously owned the 12″ which is now in my collection?

MELT BANANA: 666 (6″, Level Plane LP37, 2002)

Melt Banana - 666Yes, you read correctly – 6″. A six inch single. I had to go and create a new WordPress category for this post, and everything. I think within my collection I’ve got 5″, 6″, 7″, 9″, 10″ and 12″ records. So, a few gaps to fill. The five inch is almost impossible to play on an automatic turntable, as the arm is so close to the centre when beginning a side, it lifts up and retreats straight away. Six inches, however, just about works. I’m not sure if anybody has ever broken the 12″ barrier and created records that pretty much won’t fit on any standard turntable that exists, but if they have, I tip my hat to them. Such pointless exploits are the very reason I enjoy collecting weird and wonderful records.

Melt Banana: what a band. Relentlessly experimental and innovative noise; what’s seemingly random is – I hope – carefully constructed. I think it’d have to be, because it always tends to work, and if it was just some folks messing around and making noise, well, it’d just sound too chaotic, and not in a good way. That’s what a lot of people don’t think through when they throw ‘it’s just noise’-themed insults at music like this. It’s not just noise, it’s music that’s different to other music.

I’m not sure if I have ever seen Melt Banana play live, but my mind seems to be pinging into action and telling me I have. No recollection where, or when, however, which makes me wonder if it’s a false memory that I’ve created purely because I want to see them play live so much. There have been a few bands who have utterly blown me away with invention and entertainment in a live context – Hella, Battles and Boredoms spring to mind – and I feel like Melt Banana would be another such experience.

I first heard them some time ago when I used to tape-record tracks I liked the sound of on John Peel’s show, which would inevitably result in cut-up snippets of his chat accidentally making their way into the recordings. This was just such a case, and I can clearly remember him telling me how what he’d just played was from a Melt Banana album named Scratch Or Stitch. I kept that snippet of chat for reference. I miss John Peel.