35 Albums in 35 Years: 1997

In an ongoing attempt to bleed my opinions all over your computer screen, I’m selecting one album from every year that I’ve been alive that has some sort of significance to me…and then writing about it.  Welcome back to 35 Albums in 35 Years.


spiritualized1997: Spiritualized’s Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space

I have always been partial to break-up albums.  I’m not really sure why.  Maybe it’s the sad bastard within me.  Or maybe it’s just that when a break-up album is done well, the musical and lyrical content colliding in a perfect sea of harmonious sorrow, the final product manages to knock down our hard, constructed defensive walls and pierce us right in our pulsing, open hearts.  When said hearts and minds are in the right state, a good break-up album can mean everything.  A great one can be devastating.

My heart and my mind were in the right state when I discovered Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space.

The first song I ever remember hearing by Spiritualized was “Broken Heart.”  It was my freshman year of college, and the guy who lived next door to me in the dorm had just scored a copy of the album on vinyl.  A small group of us gathered in his room to enjoy a beer and sample the record.  Most of us had only heard of the band because they were touring with Radiohead at the time (possibly my favorite concert that I ever attended), and thus we were all eager for an introduction.  My neighbor accidentally put side C on first, and the orchestral waves of sadness began.

The song made my heart hurt.

The album came into my life right at the beginning of a long and drawn out split with my girlfriend at the time.  It spoke to me.  And in turn, I clung to it.  My devouring of the musical world of Jason Pierce, AKA J. Spaceman, then began in earnest as I dove into Spiritualized’s previous efforts as well as the old albums by Spacemen 3.  That, in and of itself, was a trip.

Pierce’s music projects have always been drenched in drug references and innuendo.  This imagery of chemical adulation paired well with the psych rock explorations the bands pursued, but there is a definite shift in tone on LAGWAFIS.  Where previous albums seemed to almost celebrate drug use and the euphoric states they induce, invoking feelings of good times, wide eyes, and skewed grins, when matched with heartache and regret, that same euphoria becomes a cover, a blanket, a bandage.  Recreation becomes medicine.  Yes, we will continue to drink.  Yes, we will continue to smoke.  Yes, we will continue to party, imbibing chemicals and flooding our brains with a glistening haze, but now there is an underscoring sadness to it all.  Now it is escape.  Now we drink to forget.  Lines like “I don’t even miss you, but that’s cause I’m fucked up,” or “I’ve got to drink you right off of my mind,” drive the point home.  It’s not that the drugs are bad, it’s just that now there’s a much more depressing reason for all of the escapism, all of the bottles and pills and ashtrays.  They’re not nearly as fun as they used to be.

After my inaugural listen to “Broken Heart,” I went back and listened to the whole album in full.  And then I listened to it again.  The 70 minutes of pysch rock, gospel, and soul exercised the demons.  Sure it devastated me, but it cradled me too.  It lessened all the pain and sorrow.  All that heartache is human, all that sadness a commonality.  We experience it because we are supposed to experience it.  It’s how we become real people.  The album fulfilled its design, it’s artistic and exterior intent.  It became a drug in its own right.

And now I’m an addict.

You wanna try some?

- Favorite song: “Broken Heart”

- Runner up: “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space”

Some other albums I almost wrote about instead: Radiohead’s OK Computer; Blur’s Blur; Portishead’s Portishead; Wyclef Jean’s The Carnival; Modest Mouse’s The Lonesome Crowded West; Suede’s Sci-fi Lullabies; Grandaddy’s Under the Western Freeway; Ween’s The Mollusk.


Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

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