Friday, 17 April 2009

The first cut is the deepest

Transparent Radiation by Spacemen 3 is my favourite song. The Perfect Prescription was my first exposure to the band and immediately became one of my favourite albums (it still is). Transparent Radiation is the mellowest of tracks made up of languid violins, wistful twanging and gently strummed guitars that occasionally rise from their torpor when the vocals call for it. My copy of the album was mis-labelled so I was unaware that it was a cover version for a few years. After I heard I sought out the Red Krayola and at first only found God Bless the Red Krayola and All Who Sail With It, which was a pretty big disappointment (apart from maybe the track Save the House). So I wasn't too surprised, when I finally got hold of The Parable of Arable Land, that their version of Transparent Radiation was tuneless toss.

My fairly low opinion of the Red Krayola has been slightly revised since then. A couple of years ago I bought Sonic Sounds for Subterraneans (a compilation put together by Pete Kember) and heard a different, much straighter, Red Krayola version of Transparent Radiation that he had obviously used as his template. While I still don't rate it above the Spacemen 3 version I found it strangely affecting, especially the vocal which is normally Mayo Thompson's major weakness. The second cause for a possible rethink was the inclusion on a recent MOJO cover cd of the song Hurricane Fighter Plane. I remember noting it as okay on my initial listen of The Parable of Arable Land but as I didn't go back to the album repeatedly this never got the chance to develop into anything. When it was presented to me away from the free form freakout surroundings of its mother album I was totally hooked on it.

Finally on Transparent Radiation a mention of the lyrics. Half the time lyrics for me are a secondary consideration. When they're done well obviously it's fantastic (Morrissey, Jarvis Cocker, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan) but a lot of my favourite music is accompanied by fairly dumb (not bad) lyrics. The Stooges, for instance. And Spacemen 3 for that matter. Transparent Radiation's lyrics are wholly surreal - when I looked them up I discovered that what I'd been mumbling along to the music for years was, incredibly, almost totally correct. They're very strange and not at all dumb though I admit I don't really know what they mean. I think it's fair to assume that they're a recollection of an acid trip, so about as impenetrably personal as it's going to get.

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