Spectrum – War Sucks EP

January 01, 1970

(Mind Expansion)




With ex-Spacemen 3 mainman Sonic Boom’s Spectrum outfit
currently on tour in America, there’s also a new four-song EP from the group,
which includes at any given time Sonic (a/k/a Pete Kember), Randall Nieman, Nolan Watkinson, Iain
Worrall and Roger Brogan — for the EP the musicians were Sonic, Watkinson and Brogan. “[The band is] sounding the best it has since S3
days,” Sonic told me last year in an interview, and on the evidence of the four
new recordings here, it’s clear that devotees of the classic drone-and-fuzztone
Spacemen 3 sound, equal parts hard skronk overdrive and blissed-out dreampop,
will have precious little argument with his assessment.


War Sucks is issued
on Detroit Space Rock City’s venerable Mind Expansion label (not so
coincidentally operated by Nieman, who is also the main force behind psychedelicists
Fuxa) and arrives in an eye-popping Ivan Liechti sleeve based on the zig-zag
“Razzle-Dazzle” deception camouflage employed by the military back during the
first two World Wars. (Vinyl fans, the 12-inch edition of the EP, featuring colored
wax, will be available in May.) The title track, of course, is a cover of the
Red Krayola song from 1967 debut The
Parable of Arable Land
, and yes, fans with long memories will recall that
two decades ago S3 tapped that same LP for a brilliant interpretation of
“Transparent Radiation. Spectrum’s treatment of “War Sucks” is appropriately
apocalyptic, a nightmarish upriver journey into a mélange of feedback, clipped
guitar chords, horror-flick organ and screeching/whorling sound effects, plus
Sonic’s trademark echoey/doubled vocal incantations. When the Krayola first
recorded the song the Vietnam War was raging; clearly some songs were
tailor-made for rediscovery by new generations.


Elsewhere, “Razzle Dazzle Mind” is a thundering instrumental
copping some well-worn Stooges riffs (much like early S3 did with its own
material) and ramming ‘em through a synth sieve; reportedly a vocal version is
being prepped for inclusion on Spectrum full-length, due later this year. Then
comes a segued pair of tunes, Laurie Anderson’s “Walking & Falling” (from
her 1982 LP Big Science), and
Spectrum original “Over and Over.” The former tune suits the band perfectly;
unlike in Anderson’s
quirky version, Sonic’s murmured/recited vocal meshes well with the backing
music, a neon-lit cocoon of gently pulsing aquatica. And as it slowly eases
into “Over and Over,” don’t be surprised if you find yourself drifting back to
S3 Playing With Fire days; the tune’s
purposeful throb, delicate fretboard pluckings and steadily rising keyboard
drones mark it a direct descendant of PWF‘s Sonic-penned “How Does It Feel?”


Significantly, War
also hearkens to some of the work Sonic was doing under the Spectrum
moniker in the early ‘90s, in particular his first post-S3 release, 1992’s Soul Kiss (Glide Divine), and 1994’s Highs, Lows & Heavenly Blows. And as
the first “proper” Spectrum-the-band release in ages – last year’s Indian Giver was a collaborative summit
with Jim Dickinson – file War Sucks under a big “welcome back” banner: some things never go out of fashion.


Standout Tracks: “War
Sucks,” “Over and Over” FRED MILLS



Leave a Reply