Space Needle
Recordings 1994-1997
2006
B



some music you can't quite imagine discovering until long after it’s been made. Something about it, some patina overlaying the songs, suggests that you really have to stumble upon it in the dusty back of a record store, or a couple of songs on a mixtape, or if you're really lucky, on a well-chosen compilation. Sure, it's kind of frustrating to find out they're not making music any more, but it's also a bit of a blessing; these bands won't betray you. You can immerse yourself in the riches they had without worrying about any future embarrassment.

With a name like Space Needle and my vague awareness that they had been lauded as one of the more unique, overlooked bands of 90s underground rock I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't this: lo-fi ballads smeared with glue and interesting as much for the debris they picked up as their sweet songcraft. At their most direct, like the drum'n'organ heart-melter “Love Left Us Strangers” or the sun-dazed “Before I Lose My Style,” they made music to soundtrack a hundred remembered slowdances, songs that have aged exceptionally well while we've been looking elsewhere. You get the feeling they would have felt a little bit old even at the time, but their hidden treasure status suits them. “Sun Doesn't Love Me” and ““Dreams”” echo like faded memories, and if they're not yours they insinuate themselves into your heart until they feel like they were.

Not that Space Needle only had one speed. Five tracks in, they throw out the terrifically bracing “Scientific Mapp,” the kind of squall that wouldn't be out of place coming from one of the bands Stylus reviews in Tape Hiss; later “Cones and Rods” and “(Untitled Duet)” similarly break up the heartfelt flow. Using the kinds of technique that the band adapts to more song-friendly form on the noisy, Pollardesque “Old Spice” and the opening “Eyes to the World” in their purest form, there was a side of Space Needle that reveled in pure sound. They recognized that sometimes the best way to avoid the maudlin isn't to rein in the openness of your ballads so much as to switch gears to the blearily opaque every so often.

It doesn't always work perfectly; those three songs really only work in the context of this collection as interruptions, albeit necessary ones. Similarly the closing, overly lengthy jam “Where the Fucks My Wallet?” [sic] wears out its welcome about six minutes before the end, and “Put it on the Glass” is little more than an extended introduction for the surprisingly wonderful (given the title) “Beers in Heaven.” But a quick perusal of Space Needle's two (out of print) albums shows that this compilation has actually done a remarkable job of trimming the fat, and given the excess their albums (especially 1997's The Moray Eels Eat the Space Needle) were prone to, it's hard to begrudge fans one of their old extended forays into the beyond.

Most importantly this collection is intelligently composed and (mostly) brilliantly sequenced, so that for forty minutes or so it's hard to argue that Space Needle's current mostly forgotten and out-of-print status is anything other than a massive injustice. Their brand of hazily decrepit love songs is too imperfectly wasted to remain obscure any longer. Inside Recordings 1994-1997 the band are dressed in flight suits, one of them seemingly about to pour a 40 oz. of Colt 45 onto his hairy chest. For a minute there, they look a little like the Beta Band and their astronaut outfits circa Hot Shots II. Like the Betas, Space Needle were ahead of their time and ignored because of it. The glory of reissues is that we now have the chance to catch up.


Reviewed by: Ian Mathers
Reviewed on: 2006-06-02
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