Spiritualized’s Lazer Guided Melodies Gets Much-Needed Audiophile-Grade Reissue

In February 1991, seminal space rock band Spacemen 3 released their long-delayed swan song, Recurring. During its long recording process, the group’s core members J. Spaceman (Jason Pierce) and Sonic Boom (Peter Kember) constantly fought; instead of composing together, Kember and Pierce had their own stylistically different LP sides. Pierce finished his side (side 2 on the original vinyl) relatively quickly. Kember, meanwhile, for months endlessly toiled away at his mixes until the group’s manager Gerald Palmer confiscated the tapes.

Fed up with Kember’s inefficiency, Pierce started his own band, Spiritualized, recruiting then-girlfriend Kate Radley (keyboards) plus former Spacemen 3 additional members Mark Refoy (guitars), Will Carruthers (bass), and Jon Mattock (drums). To get back on the road he secretly recorded the new band’s debut single. By the time Recurring dropped, J. Spaceman had mostly completed basic tracking of Spiritualized’s first LP, Lazer Guided Melodies. “The last Spacemen 3 record was under-realized to me,” he recently wrote. “When I listen back to that stuff it sounds like somebody finding their way. There [were] a lot of ideas but no way to put them into a space that would make them all work. So, there was a huge freedom forging over the last Spacemen 3 record and when Spiritualized started, it was like, ‘Okay it’s all yours. Go.’”

In contrast to Spacemen 3’s noisy early work (and their mid-fi later 80s releases), 1992’s Lazer Guided Melodies and Pierce’s Recurring LP side trade overt neo-psychedelia for meticulous, pristine dreamscapes. Spacemen 3 absorbed diverse influences, but Lazer Guided Melodies highlights Pierce’s gospel inspirations and further refines his songcraft. He deeply understands dynamics; as they build up and wind down, his compositions guide listeners through spaces not usually reached. This first Spiritualized album doesn’t exactly adhere to its era’s other musical movements, and by filtering older traditions through Spaceman’s signature space rock style, remains timeless.

Sequenced into four suites (pertaining to the double LP’s four sides), Lazer Guided Melodies opens with “You Know It’s True,” building on The Perfect Prescription’s delicate spaciousness without that album’s exhausting in-your-face drugginess. The chugging guitars of “If I Were With Her Now” compliment the minimal lyrics (“You gave me drugs you said would cure my ills/They may cure yours but mine are with me still”) as Pierce’s vocals drift into the ether. The relatively conventional “Run” interpolates the Velvet Underground’s “Run Run Run” and J.J. Cale’s “Call Me The Breeze,” and the six-minute instrumental passage “Symphony Space” takes listeners through Spiritualized’s sonic universe. “Shine a Light”’s beautiful gospel yearnings make way for a dense wall of sound, “Sway” is the album’s lyrical peak (“Life sure is weird but what else have I to know?”), and the glossy “200 Bars” is a fittingly psychedelic closer. While on records like 1997’s Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space Spiritualized embraced grand arrangements, Lazer Guided Melodies is still a carefully constructed trip through musical sound and time, a record that transcends genres and eras. (Even though out of the band’s first few records it’s the least expensive, Pierce says, “I’ve never received any royalties from any of these records”).

This year, Fat Possum launched the Pierce-supervised Spaceman Reissue Program, featuring new reissues of the first four Spiritualized albums (the Pure Phase reissue is also out, and a wider Ladies and Gentlemen reissue drops soon). This 2LP 45rpm Lazer Guided Melodies reissue, released in April, is half-speed mastered “from original sources” (either DATs or analog reels) by Barry Grint at Alchemy Mastering. There are 180g black (standard) and white (“special”) vinyl editions, both plated at GZ and pressed at Memphis Record Pressing. The sound quality is exquisite; the mastering is tonally well-balanced (though a bit lacking in the low bass range), and the imaging is immersive with precise solidity. Loud sections have plenty of instrument separation, the drums have satisfying depth, and the guitars have appropriate bite. I haven’t heard the other pressings, but this is without a doubt better than the (likely CD-sourced) Plain Recordings reissue, and I can’t imagine the expensive Dedicated UK/EU original beating this new one (though some copies of the original include a bonus 7” not yet reissued). The thick direct-to-board gatefold jacket has reimagined artwork by Mark Farrow, and the 180g white vinyl is well-pressed, albeit with some expected light surface noise. For $30, you can’t go wrong; this audiophile-grade reissue is essential for any large, well-rounded record collection.

(Malachi Lui is an AnalogPlanet contributing editor, music obsessive, avid record collector, and art enthusiast. He’s currently absorbing Kanye West’s stunning albeit lengthy new album Donda. Follow Malachi on Twitter: @MalachiLui and Instagram: @malachi__lui)

Pretzel Logic's picture

Have long convinced myself that Ladies and Gentlemen was enough Spiritualized for one collection, but I think I'll be getting this.

PotatoJunkie's picture

Dammit! Just when I had myself convinced I had no more room you made me go and and buy this ( and Pure Phase for good measure!)gotta stop reading ......
Stop subliminally telling me to buy more albums!

Pretzel Logic's picture

Discogs has a lot of disgruntled reviews about the quality of the pressing (noisy, warped...)

MalachiLui's picture

didn't mention this in the review, but LP1 on my copy was near-perfectly flat, and LP2 had a minor warp that didn't affect play. any white vinyl pressing will have some light surface nose, though the worst it got on my copy was a repeating click at the end of "shine a light." if you're worried about surface noise, get the black vinyl, though it's never guaranteed to be flat. and fwiw, my copy was sealed and purchased at a record store...

MalachiLui's picture

you find more! records always take priority and you find new excuses every time to carve out more space!