Playing with Fire album cover
Playing with Fire

Spacemen 3

Fire Records

If The Perfect Prescription was the real launch into the stratosphere for Spacemen 3 then Playing With Fire is when they fully broke out of the atmosphere entirely, the band achieving as perfect a fusion as they possibly could for their minimal/maximal Stooges/gospel/Kraftwerk worship. Jason Pierce is audibly already looking towards where Spiritualized would end up on songs like “Lord Can You Hear Me?” while Sonic Boom fires up the obsessiveness on the grind of “Revolution,” and on “Suicide,” a nod to the famed aggro electronic duo, it’s pure exultant flow.

Ned Raggett

'Taking drugs to make music to take drugs to’ is a neat line, but it undersells the visionary genius of the music Jason Pierce and Pete ‘Sonic Boom’ Kember made as Spacemen 3. Having laid out their stall with the garage psych rock evolutions of Perfect Prescription, Playing With Fire brought in a wider range of sounds influenced by krautrock and proto-ambient outliers to crystalise and expand their drone rock explorations. The stately “Come Down Softly To My Soul” had clear traces of Neu! in its transmissions, while the cacophonous “Revolution” featured Kember (very slowly) relaying MC5 manager/White Panther John Sinclair’s “it takes five seconds…” speech over a thunderous wall of Stooges-like distortion. On closer “Lord Can You Hear Me,” meanwhile, Jason Pierce delivered an emotionally cracked, gospel lullaby of the sort he would soon turn cinematic with Spiritualized. By their next album, 1991’s Recurring, the pair were barely speaking to each other and recorded all their songs separately, effectively making Playing With Fire the band’s last, defining statement.

Chris Catchpole

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