BURNING BADGERS VINYL (Part 16): SPECTRUM

Burning Badgers Vinyl – The Lost LPs #4

Soul Kiss(Glide Divine) – Spectrum (1992, Silvertone Records)

SWC writes……..

The second time I ever met Badger was outside a farm near the rain drenched Dartmoor market town called Okehampton (or, as the locals call it in honour of its rain drenched status, Soakhampton). It was at the height of the foot and mouth crisis and I can remember for a good three months the air on Dartmoor was thick with the smell of burning cows. It was a horrible time. I’d turned up there in a hire car, a brand new Honda Civic, which had 17 miles on the clock when I got in it and was so clean you could have fried your breakfast on it. By the time I’d got to the farm it was covered in mud. Badger was sitting cross legged on a massive tree stump drinking tea out of a mug that had “Farmers like it dirty” emblazoned on its side. He also, as usual, had a bacon sandwich in his left hand.

(Incidentally the official colour of the Honda Civic was something called ‘Nighthawk’. I also once drove a new Vauxhall Insignia that was apparently coloured ‘Bedouin’, something that inspired Badger and I to once compile a rundown of the best songs ever to contain a colour in the title, ‘Blue Monday’ came out on top unsurprisingly narrowly beating ‘Ruby Tuesday’ to the crown).

The previous time I’d met him had been about six weeks earlier at a Christmas Party where a very drunk Badger had explained to a semi interested crowd the mechanics of the bands The Libertines and Babyshambles with the aid of condiments such as brown sauce, small sachets of vinegar and a salt mill. He sort of pulled it off. I got the bus back to the wilds of South Devon with Badger that night and we spent the entire hour journey talking about our favourite bands. Although I almost moved seats when he said that one of the best records he owned was ‘Appetite For Destruction’.

Anyway, back to the farm, I can’t go into to why Badger was there, but I had to deliver something to him and it had to be hand delivered. The hand delivered thing was very sensitive and I was supposed to be a little bit careful with it. I don’t think I was supposed to advertise my arrival to the middle of nowhere by destroying the peace and quiet of the countryside by taking full advantage of the brand new and previously unused car stereo in the Honda Civic. But that’s’ what I did. I literally rocked up at this farm with ‘Loveless’ by My Bloody Valentine roaring away.

mp3: My Bloody Valentine – Sometimes

Badger told me he heard me coming through the village a full five minutes before I arrived. The word ‘full’ emphasised with a grin. He said it was the first time he had ever seen cows willingly engaging in shoegazing. On the other hand he said pointing to the field of crops to his left,

“My Bloody Valentine appear to be a very effective form of scaring off crows from fields. You should market that to the National Farmers Union, you want a cuppa?

Stupid question. Of course, I want a cuppa. Badger looks at me and asks “You ever seen MBV live?”. Nope I say…

In late 1991, a much younger and less grizzled Tim Badger caught a train from Leeds with his mates Aaron and Max and travelled down to London to see My Bloody Valentine. He wasn’t really a fan of the band, he thought that they were too bloody loud but they were also going to a football match so he tagged along. The gig was at the Town and Country Club (now the Forum), a legendary venue in Kentish Town. He told me all about that gig.

Christ, it was loud” he said, “from the first second they came on there was just smoke everywhere, and then constant feedback, and this wall of sound that made you teeth rattle and it was impossible to drink anything because of the throbbing noise your jaw was making, you couldn’t see anything, everyone was coughing and everyones ears hurt. I mean it was amazing but at least twenty people lost their hearing that night before the support had even finished”

Who was the support act I asked him. He looked at me and grinned, “It was Sonic Boom’s Spectrum and…” he said his voice dropping to a whisper…”they were way better than MBV, MBV were out of tune, half asleep and spoke in whispers to a crowd who had had their ear drums blasted by two hours of feedback. They could have been calling our mothers whores and we wouldn’t have had a clue” (the gig was 14th December 1991).

All of which gently rocking cows staring at their hooves (why has no one invented hoofgaze yet?), brings us to the fourth LP casually lifted from Badger’s Big Box of Records. It is, for those of you who haven’t read the top of the page, the debut album ‘Soul Kiss (Glide Divine)’, by the slightly less genius side of Spacemen 3, – Pete Kember, aka Sonic Boom and his band Spectrum.

As you will all know, I’m a sucker for anything Spacemen 3 related – I mean I even bought the album by The Darkside and I went to Lupine Howl’s first ever gig, but for some reason apart from the first track below I never explored Spectrum’s oeuvre, largely I think because the word ‘Spectrum’ always reminds me of a rubbish leisure centre in Guildford, where a 50 year old woman made a pass at a 20 year old me at a bus stop (it’s a story for another time).
Anyway, let’s start here, with the one track we should know about already.

mp3: Spectrum – How You Satisfy Me

Because that folks, is stone cold indie rock excellence from the opening swirls of that organ at the start, through the way it just kind of nicks a large part of a Troggs song (I forget which one) and tries to pretend it hasn’t. After that Kember just kinds of floats his lyrics about over and over again majestically. Essentially ‘How You Satisfy Me’ is one long chorus and one long riff but somehow, somehow, its garage rock perfection and if Kember stuck to that instead of making music that you sounded as you were sitting on a cloud, things might have been very different.

The rest of the album is a lot calmer and much more aligned with Sonic Boom’s later E.A.R. (Experimental Audio Research) work, more experimental and firmly embedded in the drone rock genre.

I’ll give you ‘Neon Sigh’ as an example of this. It kind of slowly uses drone effect and has this cool swirly sounds drifting in and out that kind of suggest something might happen, albeit it will be minimalistic when it does eventually happen.

Musically it would appear at least, that Sonic Boom’s Spectrum could argue that they were floating in space long before Jason Pierce stumbled upon the idea.

mp3: Spectrum – Neon Sigh

It’s not all experimental space drifting though, there are a bunch of actual songs, which are very pleasant. ‘Waves Wash Over Me’ stands out, if only for the vocals, which are ‘breezy’ shall we say.

mp3: Spectrum – Waves Wash Over Me

My favourite part of the album, apart from ‘How You Satisfy Me’ that is, is a track called “Sweet Running Water”. Which is in keeping with the watery theme running through the album, a slow and gentle waterfall of feedback and even softer rhythms. Outstanding.

mp3: Spectrum – Sweet Running Water

SWC

JC adds

All new to me…..and while it’s not something I would have tracked down at the time the fact that 1992 was a year in which very few copies of album were pressed onto vinyl means SWC is now the proud owner of a record which fetches the best part of £200 on the second-hand market.  As such, I type this PS with a tinge of jealousy…..

6 thoughts on “BURNING BADGERS VINYL (Part 16): SPECTRUM

  1. “why has no one invented hoofgaze yet?” HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
    I do love me some SWC.

  2. I never really understood why Sonic Boom or Spectrum failed to take off in the same way as Spiritualized?

    Spaceman 3 made such an impact on me that when the somewhat inevitable split came I vowed to support both Pierce and Kember. It was easier said than done. Spectrum and Sonic Boom releases were harder to find e.g. I couldn’t find a copy of California Lullabye in Glasgow but did find a copy in Barcelona. P.S. I wasn’t on a world tour searching for the single, if only.

    The early releases match, in my opinion, anything released by Spiritualized at that time and it’s fantastic to see a light being shone on some superb songs.

  3. I saw MBV live once too, probably the same tour. Exeter Uni, a couple mates had a spare ticket, I tagged along. Not because I wanted to see MBV, but to see the support band Silverfish whose rather brilliant album Fat Axl had been ripping my ears to shreds. It was too big a venue for Silverfish really, and the audience didn’t have a clue what was going on – I was the sole idiot going mental while everyone looked at me and the band and wondered what planet we were from.

    MBV were awful. Really, really awful. Half the crowd disappeared to the bar downstairs while they were on. I sat in a corner and fell asleep! One of the worst bands I’ve ever seen, which is why I’ve never understood the near godlike status they’ve been elevated to over the years.

  4. MBV played Glasgow on the same mini-tour. It was a stunning tour de force and left me elated. Teenage Fanclub were support and they too were incredible.

    I recall this night very, very fondly.

  5. Brilliant and hilarious from the first paragraph, especially the striking image of Badger with his “Farmers like it dirty” mug and bacon sandwich.

    No reason that I can think of, but I followed Spiritualized and pretty much ignored anything that Sonic Boom did, post-Spacemen 3. Made up for it in the 21st Century.

    I saw MBV live in 1998, supporting Pixies at the Bristol Bierkeller. I thought they were shambolic and pretty crap at the time, although my opinion of their (recorded) music has changed since.

    This series is a continual joy for the anecdotes and musical treats. Thanks, SWC!

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