Suburban Rock 'n' Roll

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Suburban Rock 'n' Roll
Srarpromo.jpg
Studio album by
Released8 March 2004
RecordedJune–July 2002 [1]
StudioHighfield Street Studios, Liverpool
GenreAlternative rock, neo-psychedelia
Length40:15
LabelRandM, Pinnacle
ProducerStephen Lironi
Space chronology
Tin Planet
(1998)
Suburban Rock 'n' Roll
(2004)
Attack of the Mutant 50ft Kebab
(2014)
Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
Allmusic3/5 stars link
Leeds Music Scene4/5 stars link

Suburban Rock 'n' Roll is the fourth studio album (third counting the then-unreleased Love You More than Football) by Space, released on 8 March 2004. It is their first proper album release since 1998's Tin Planet. The tracks "Zombies", "Suburban Rock 'N' Roll" and "20 Million Miles from Earth" were released as singles, all of them failing to reach top 40.

For this album Space sought to diverge from the polished, commercial-friendly sound that inhabited Tin Planet and Love You More than Football, to a style more reminiscent of their debut Spiders. Tommy Scott's lyrical themes also shifted in direction, moving away from the character-driven lyrics of old to more personal reflections, with songs dealing with death, living in suburbia, crime and surveillance. The band also reunited with Spiders' producer Stephen Lironi, who is credited as songwriter of a few tracks. Suburban Rock 'N' Roll is the first Space album with no techno/electronic instrumentals from Franny Griffiths, as the band wanted the album to be more song-oriented.

The album was not a great success, as public interest had waned in the band almost six years previously, and promotion for the record was almost non-existent. Despite the failure of both album and singles, the album remains a favourite amongst fans, with even former band member Jamie Murphy dubbing it the "best Space album".[2]

Background[edit]

After touring and promotional commitments of their second album Tin Planet concluded in late 1998, Space returned to the studio to commence work on their third album, tentatively titled Love You More than Football. However, Gut Records objected to Edwyn Collins being chosen as producer, and forced the band to rework the material several times, delaying its release for over two years. A taster single from the album, "Diary of a Wimp", was released, but was poorly received by critics and peaked outside the top 40, the band's first single to do so since "Neighbourhood".

The long hiatus between albums and lack of substantial material began affecting the band's ability to play live, as former guitarist/vocalist Jamie Murphy recalls: "When it was 3rd album time, I think we’d been away from it all for about a year and we had a tour while we had nothing out. We were doing 2000 capacity venues and there’d only be 400 people there. So we were going onstage every night going, “What the fuck’s going on here? What have we done wrong?”.[3]

Eventually, the album were scrapped in July 2001. By that time, the band had terminated their contract with Gut, which according to frontman Tommy Scott, was due to creative differences rather than financial issues: "It took us a year to get out of it. One of the problems we had in the past was that we felt we were being pushed in the wrong direction - like they were trying to turn us into The Beautiful South or something, when in fact we never wanted that at all, we just wanted to be a cult band".[4] Meanwhile, Jamie Murphy, who was growing estranged from the others, was dismissed from the line-up. According to Murphy, because tensions were running high at the time, the exchange was never made face-to-face between his bandmates, and was informed only by the management that he was out of the group.[5] Love You More than Football now primarily exists as a bootleg, courtesy of a promotional CD-R which circulated around May 2000.

As a result, Space, now reduced to a four-piece and out of a record label, retreated to the studio for a couple of years, sporadically releasing several songs as MP3s free of charge to download through their website, becoming one of the first major groups to do so. These tracks showcased a more experimental side to the band, and were eventually collated as the Music for Aliens EP.

Recording[edit]

The recording sessions for Suburban Rock 'n' Roll took place between June and July 2002[6] at Highfield Street Studios in Liverpool. Stephen Lironi, who had previously worked with the band on their debut album Spiders, was brought on as producer, as well as contributing additional guitar and keyboard parts, with Gerald "Ged" Lynch providing percussion. In comparison to the fraught Love You More than Football sessions, the band found the experience "cleansing" and recording with Lironi productive. As the band were still unsigned at the time of recording, they were excited to just be writing songs without any constraints or outside pressure from record labels. According to Tommy Scott, up to 40 song ideas were brought to the studio, before the group eventually settled on a concise, eleven song track listing.[7] As is tradition, out-takes from the sessions would later end up as B-sides or Music for Aliens tracks. Doug Trantow engineered and mixed the album, and the final mix was mastered by Alan Yoshida at Ocean Way Studios in Hollywood.

Composition[edit]

Lyrics[edit]

The lyrical themes of the album largely dealt with the growing influence of survelliance and voyeurism.

In a webcast interview in 2003, Bassist David "Yorkie" Palmer elaborated on the concept of Suburban Rock 'n' Roll: "The album basically deals with the subject of surveillance and a certain loss of freedom in modern society. On different levels from like the tiny sort of restrictive signs you see everywhere like you know: no ball games, no trespassing, no dogs, no cycling, clean it up to more oppressive things on a larger scale such as cameras in the back of police vans, helicopters with cameras in. Generally the whole idea that even though you may think you live in the most idyllic place every place comes with its own restrictions that prohibit you doing certain things and we just found it interesting because it seems to be an unnameable group of people who put these restrictions into place, it doesn't seem to be by general consensus."[8] Some of the lyrics deal with Tommy Scott's feelings of raising a family in suburbia, and how it parallels with having grown up on a council estate plagued by high levels of crime and unemployment (as previously discussed in the song "Neighbourhood"), as well as his opinions and experiences in the music industry.

Scott singled out the album's lead single "Zombies", a self-described "electro-punk" song, as a key example of the record's themes: "Basically, it's our little dig against the voyeuristic society that we all seem to be trapped in at the moment: Big Brother, I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!, Popstars, even Coronation Street, EastEnders, etc. People seem to forget that they have their own lives to lead. We've all become a bit numb to real experience."[9]

New York duo Suicide was a big influence on the writing of the album.

Sound[edit]

Whilst recording Suburban Rock 'N' Roll, the band made a conscious decision not to repeat the sound of their last two albums, and set out to explore more experimental methods, with a greater emphasis on sampling. Jamie Murphy's departure affected the direction of the music, as Yorkie noted: "Some of the tracks have no noticeable guitar whereas you know Jamie being a proper sort of guitar hero type person wouldn't allow that, it would, if there was a space there for guitar there would be guitar. So it's a little bit sparser, maybe a little bit more disciplined the sound and its allowed I think texture wise like the keyboards and other things that we use like the samples to come through a bit more."[10] The band credited the New York synth punk duo Suicide as a big influence on the album, and would often listen to their debut album on their way to the studio, inspiring the track "Pretty Suicide".

Keyboardist Franny Griffiths defended the album's lack of dance tracks, which had been somewhat of a tradition on previous Space releases: "For me it's better. People might say why's there no dance tracks or maybe there's no Yorkie tracks, but I think when you listen back to it you'll see why them things aren't on it because its more consistent, even though it's all our different ideas, it's at a better blend, it runs better and you can listen to each track after each other no problem. You're not jumping from one track to another, you want to actually listen to it from start to finish." [11]

Release and aftermath[edit]

Suburban Rock 'N' Roll was released in March 2004. The band had initially proposed for it to be released through producer Stephen Lironi's label Mutant, who had already released the album's lead single "Zombies" in November 2002 almost 18 months earlier. However, the label began to experience financial problems, so at the end of 2003, the band eventually signed a deal with RandM Records, a label formed by veteran music industry executives Mike Andrews and Roy Eldridge from within the Chrysalis Group.

The band also ran into problems having the album artwork approved. The original sleeve was intended to depict a suburban household from the point of view of a sniper's target, but the band had lost the rights to use the original photograph. Instead, a series of collages designed by Tommy Scott was used as the artwork for the album and its accompanying singles. The eyes on the cover are lifted from a promotional photo of actor Conrad Veidt from the film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which Scott has referred to as his favourite film.[12]

Three singles were issued from Suburban Rock 'n' Roll: "Zombies", "Suburban Rock 'n' Roll" and "20 Million Miles from Earth". "Suburban Rock 'n' Roll" was the only single that managed to chart, peaking at a lukewarm #67 in the UK, and the only one to receive an official music video, although an animated clip for "20 Million Miles from Earth" was released on the band's website. The album itself failed to chart altogether, and was met with a mixed reception from the press.

At the time of the album's release, Space had already set to work on a follow-up entitled Flies, and had premiered several of its songs at gigs in 2004. However, after the band decided to call it a day in 2005, the album never materialised, though a provisional tracklisting appeared on their website.[13]

Track listing[edit]

No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Suburban Rock 'n' Roll"Tommy Scott, Space, Stephen Lironi3:34
2."Zombies"Scott, Space, Lironi3:54
3."Hitch-Hiking"Scott, Space3:10
4."Punk Rock Funeral"Scott, Space3:17
5."Hell's Barbecue"Scott, Space4:20
6."Paranoid 6Teen"Scott, Space3:35
7."The English Language"Scott, Space, Lironi3:44
8."Pretty Suicide"Scott, Space3:39
9."20 Million Miles from Earth"Scott, Space, Lironi2:58
10."Quiet Brach"Scott, Space4:34
11."The Goodbye Song"Scott, Space3:28

Personnel[edit]

Space:

Additional Musicians:

  • Stephen Lironi – additional guitar, keyboards
  • Ged Lynch – percussion

Production:

  • Stephen Lironi – producer
  • Doug Trantow – engineering & mixing
  • Jack Jelfs – assistance
  • Alan Yoshida – mastering
  • Mark Cowley @ HUG Management – management
  • Tommy Scott – original artwork
  • Dave "Yorkie" Palmer – layout & design
  • Roy Elridge & Mike Andrews @ RandM – record label

References[edit]

External links[edit]