Suburban Rock 'n' Roll
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|Suburban Rock 'n' Roll|
|Studio album by Space|
|Released||8 March 2004|
|Studio||Highfield Street Studios, Liverpool|
|Genre||Alternative rock, neo-psychedelia|
|Leeds Music Scene||link|
Suburban Rock 'n' Roll is the third (fourth if you count the unreleased Love You More than Football) studio album 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".
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 peaked outside the top 40, their 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 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?”".
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". Meanwhile, Jamie Murphy, who was growing restless and distant 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. Love You More than Football now primilarly exist as a bootleg, courtesy of a promotional copy on 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 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.
The band recorded Suburban Rock 'n' Roll between June and July 2002 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. As is tradition, out-takes from the sessions would later end up as B-sides or Music for Aliens tracks.
Bassist David "Yorkie" Palmer elaborated on the album's concept: "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." Some of the lyrics deal with Tommy Scott's feelings of raising a family in suburbia, and how it parallels with having spent most of his youth living on a council estate plagued by high levels of crime and unemployment, as well as his opinions and experiences in the music industry.
Scott singled out "Zombies", an "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."
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. 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." 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. The track "Pretty Suicide" written as a tribute to them.
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."
- "Suburban Rock 'N' Roll" (Scott/Space/Lironi) – 3:34
- "Zombies" (Scott/Space/Lironi) – 3:54
- "Hitch Hiking" (Scott/Space) – 3:10
- "Punk Rock Funeral" (Scott/Space) – 3:17
- "Hell's Barbecue" (Scott/Space) – 4:20
- "Paranoid 6teen" (Scott/Space) – 3:35
- "The English Language" (Scott/Space/Lironi) – 3:44
- "Pretty Suicide" (Scott/Space) – 3:39
- "20 Million Miles from Earth" (Scott/Space/Lironi) – 2:57
- "Quiet Beach" (Scott/Space) – 4:34
- "The Goodbye Song" (Scott/Space) – 3:28
- All lead vocals: Tommy Scott
- Tommy Scott – lead vocals, guitar
- Franny Griffiths – keyboards, electronics, backing vocals
- Dave "Yorkie" Palmer – bass guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
- Leon Caffrey – drums
- Stephen Lironi – additional guitar, keyboards
- Ged Lynch – percussion
- 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