Written by Chris Osifchin
The Bright Light Social Hour’s self-titled first album laid the blueprint for Space Is Still The Place. Touring for the next three years, the band managed to develop a sound that’s completely their own. Equal parts bluesy and danceable, they’ve perfectly refined their original sound into a psychedelic bluesy mess … a very good mess.
“Sweet Madelene” kicks things off with the band declaring that “space is still the place.” For approximately the next 40 minutes the band blasts off into space and returns in an instant, but manages to make it feel like an eternity. This is a crew that knows what it wants to do, where it wants to go and, most importantly, how it is going to get there, including detours along the way.
“Slipstream” is next, dismissing the slashing guitars of “Sweet Madelene,” in favor of a slow, bluesy gut punch. Traveling in the wake of the upbeat opening track, the title describes the song perfectly as it drafts behind the echoing energy “Sweet Madelene,” revealing the beginning of a bluesy trip down the rabbit hole.
If space is truly still the place, “Dreamlove” signals the arrival, or as bassist Jack O’Brien calls it, “waking up in a hospital spaceship.” The drone of the bass and the floating melody combine to create a feeling similar to what being suspended in space must feel like. When the drums kick in, you can’t help but tap your foot or nod your head. It’s exhilarating. It makes you want to move.
In Keith Richards’ autobiography he mentions the drone, a sound of which he is particularly fond of. The Bright Light Social Hour uses the drone to great effect on Space…, particularly on “Slipstream” and “Sea of the Edge.” Dripping in reverb and resonating, the synth on “Sea of the Edge” is the constant backdrop to the melody, the drone, the literal sea of the edge stretched out before you. The soundscape is soft, slow and dreamy reflecting what it must be like to reach the edge of the void, glide past, and “gaze back home from the ledge.”
After the haunting overdrive of “Ouroboros,” a not so subtle nod to the cyclical nature of life, the album’s most danceable track “Infinite Cities” centers it with a pulsing rhythm and turns on the thrusters to make it to “The Moon,” a triumphant track that brings the band’s mission to a fitting apex and sends them home giddy on the bouncing bass line in closer, “Escape Velocity.”
If there’s any gripe to be had with Space Is Still The Place, it’s that the lyrics are not always easy to decipher. The tracks are all so deep and layered that sometimes the vocals become more of an instrument, or another sound, than a vehicle for ideas. Maybe that’s the point, but it’s nice to be able to understand the lyrics apart from the music, especially in such a tripped out atmosphere.
Despite the sometimes muddled lyrics, the album is a significant achievement for The Bright Light Social Hour. If you find yourself with approximately 46 minutes to spare, do yourself a favor and pick this album up.
Ladies and Gentlemen: Space Is Indeed Still The Place.