Currently comprised of founding members Tommy Scott (vocals, guitar), Franny Griffiths (keys), along with Phil Hartley (double bass, bass) and Allan Jones (drums), the Liverpool-based quartet Space can trace their origins back to 1993 when founding members Scott and Griffiths along with fellow founding member Andy Parle (drums) recruited Jamie Murphy (vocals, guitar) to make Scott’s artistic and sonic vision real.
In the first couple of years of the band’s existence, they had cut their teeth on Liverpool’s famed live music scene and released a couple of singles that started to build up buzz regionally — including “Neighbourhood,” a single that was informed by (and depicted) Scott’s childhood block but with serial killers and transvestites as major characters. In some way, I imagine that the song would have been compared favorably to Lou Reed‘s “Walk On The Wild Side” but perhaps with a British sensibility.
The band’s second single “Female of the Species” was a critical and commercial success as the single stayed on the UK Top 40 Charts for three weeks. Intentionally written to sound like a Burt Bacharach song sung by Frank Sinatra, the single, which was written for Scott’s late father, expanded the then-quartet’s profile nationally, and as a result, their debut effort, Spiders was both a critical and commercial success. That was followed by three sold out national tours, three UK Top 20 singles — “Dark Clouds,” a re-issued “Neigbourhood” and their Top 10 hit “Me and You Versus The World” — and several festival appearances. Bassist and old friend Dave Palmer was recruited to become the band’s full-time bassist, which allowed Scott to fully concentrate on vocal duties.
Around that time, the band started to receive international attention, with “Female of the Species” receiving airplay Stateside on college radio and MTV. As a result of the Stateside attention, the newly-constituted quintet went on a US tour during the middle of 1997, which led to cracks within the band — Murphy, the youngest member of the band missed a number of live shows and TV appearances but he returned to the band in time for the recording sessions of their sophomore effort, Tin Planet, an effort that Scott has described as “more darkness, but the songs are pure love songs. Our first songs used to be trying to be like Speedy Gonzales or Peter Lorre. Now, it’s more Marlene Dietrich.” After the album was finished, founding member Parle left the band and was replaced by Leon Caffrey. And although the band was in transition, album singles “Avenging Angels” landed at number 6 on the UK charts, “The Ballad of Tom Jones” featuring Catatonia‘s Cerys Matthews landed at number 4 — with the album itself debuting at number 3 on the UK albums charts in 1998.
During 1999, the members of Space took a break from touring and focused on writing material for their third full-length effort Love You More Than Football. The album was slated for a mid-2000 release in the UK but it was delayed indefinitely by Gut Records. After leaving Gut Records, the band spent time seeking out a new label and rewriting the material that would wind up comprising their third full-length effort. At the end of 2001, Space announced a free, intimate hometown gig but with about a week before the show, Jamie Murphy left the band.
in November 2003, the band signed to Randm Records and their first single in a few years “Suburban Rock ‘n’ Roll” peaked at number 16 on the UK Indie charts, and the album also titled Suburban Rock ‘n’ Roll was critically praised, with one publication describing the album as “eleven brilliant trips into the crazed mind of Tommy Scott.” Their fourth and last full-length effort to date at that point, 20 Million Miles from Earth was released in May 2004 and peaked at number 35 on the UK Indie Charts.
As the story goes, Space quietly broke up after the release of 20 Million Miles with the members of the band moving on to a variety of musical projects. Scott and Caffrey were members of The Drellas; Griffiths went into production and produced records under the moniker Subway Showdown and later joined Murphy in Dust; and Palmer also went into production and had a solo recording project Mongoose.
Founding member and drummer Parle tragically died in 2009. The surviving original members of the band met at the funeral and it sparked their 2011 reunion, which reunited founding members Scott, Murphy and Griffiths and included Hartley, Ryan Clarke (vintage keys) and Jones. The newly reunited sextet played a reunion show, that was a quick sellout and was then followed up by their most recent effort Attack of the Mutant 50ft Kebab. Although Murphy has left the band, Space is currently working on new material and are have been on a tour throughout the fall.
Their latest single “Strange World” pairs a dark, brooding indie pop song reminiscent of The The, The Church and others, complete with plaintive vocals and atmospheric guitars with contemporary R&B, subtly African and jazz-based percussion and mariachi-inspired horns to craft a sound that’s both lushly cinematic and anachronistic. You can easily envision the song as part of the soundtrack of a David Lynch or a Quentin Tarantino film; but perhaps more important, the song possesses a heartache that feels ancient and familiar — the sort of heartache that comes from the sad realization that life will inevitably break your heart many, many times.
The official video begins with a slow panning of some garish figurines — the sort of figurines that look as though they should be in someone’s grandmother’s house but it pulls back to reveal the band performing the song in a house full of random bric-a-brac. The surroundings seem to imply that some extremely eccentric, possibly disturbed person may have lived there, which emphasizes the song’s overall strangeness.