Pop: The Space age

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Indy Lifestyle Online
It is one of the great mysteries of the pop industry that has baffled great minds the length and breath of the country - what has happened to the Liverpool rock scene? If forced to name three reasonably contemporary acts from that city, chances are that the bands would belong to an era dating back almost 20 years - Echo & The Bunnymen, Julian Cope and Frankie Goes To Hollywood, for example.

And the sad irony is that even Space fall into that category, for it was way back in 1984 that Space vocalist Tommy Scott, now 32, teamed up with Franny Griffiths, the man responsible for all their bonkers keyboard noises. Twelve heady years of playing to three punters and a dog passed, fame proving a particularly elusive lover, before, in 1996, the release of their spookoid novelty, "Female Of The Species", made them an overnight sensation, shifting nearly a million copies in Britain alone.

Space, then, challenge Sheffield's Pulp for sheer bloody-minded longevity. And it is just one way in which the wacky world of Space isn't all it may initially appear. It is easy to dismiss them as Scouse jesters made good - Tommy's mischievous storytelling about scary, otherworldly females and sinister neighbours, the splashes of reggae, the Sixties TV theme- tune undercurrents, and copious bursts of cheesy Seventies disco all don't help matters. Radiohead they are not. But funnily enough, seeing as their debut album Spiders sold more than 750,000 copies, maybe they are approaching Radiohead in terms of popularity.

Space's new album, Tin Planet, is often unbelievably daft in the way it tosses around innumerable influences, revealing the band to be shameless musical magpies. Every song is treated like a different fancy-dress party, complete with a new false beard, weird accent and silly outfit. One minute they are wiggly disco kings, the next, as in the single "Avenging Angels", they've gone for bongo drums-and-theremin wooziness.

But from another angle, it is a miracle that they managed to get an album together at all. Tommy was told by three specialist doctors he would never sing again during 1997's disastrous world promotional tour, in the course of which guitarist Jamie Murphy had a mental breakdown and drummer Andy Parle suffered from nervous exhaustion.

Yet out of all that they pulled out an album which has already spawned two top-10 hits; "The Ballad Of Tom Jones" even makes all the absurd stuff worthwhile, being spiked with intrigue and the perils of love, not to mention orginality.

Space have been to the brink and pulled back just in time.

Forum, Kentish Town, NW5 (0171-344 4444) 7 Apr