Reviews - Live

Paris Espace Ornano - 30/11/90

Levitation: Ready for a triumphant take-off or about to crash at the end of the runway? For the past nine days, Levitation have been doing low-key support slots in Europe with Galaxie 500 and Ride. It's been a tour designed to give the band a breathing space, a chance to shake down their live show without the pressures of expectation that would accompany British gigs.

Levitation take the stage at a disconcertingly early hour of the Paris evening. Visually, they are a straggly bunch, with the look of men who figured out what clothes suited them a while back and haven't attempted any drastic image-change since.

They begin nervously and their cause isn't helped by a PA which decides to emit odd squeaking noises at various key moments. It's only as Levitation hit their third number, "Squirrel", that their sound really begins to emerge. With the John Cale-like drone of violinist Johnny T supporting the rhythm section, the guitars of Terry Bickers and Bic Hayes are given plenty of space to develop their own musical patterns in conjunction with the keyboards of Rob White. It's a rich music with sinister overtones that works best over longer numbers. Add to this the revelation that Bickers can actually sing and there's definitely something happening here.

If there's a comparison to be made with, ahem, another band, it's in the sense of drama that pervades the set (and not the misguided sense of theatre which prompts Bickers to try to set light to his guitar at the end). This comes in part from Bickers' distinctive guitar sound, but it also stems from the aching sense of lost love in songs such as "Smile" and "Against Nature".

It's impossible to ignore the history here but nevertheless Levitation are more than "Bickers' next project". Levitation are a band and, on the evidence of tonight's performance, a damn fine one.

Jonathan Wright – NME 15 Dec 1990

Hampstead White Horse - 15/12/90

Terry Bickers isn't heir to a terrifically inspiring tradition, it has to be said. Let's face it, the last time a famous band was acrimoniously rent asunder, Paul McCartney bequeathed us Wings. What makes things worse for Terry is that, in this instance, his old muckers are still around to haunt his every riff and solo.

Leaving aside the chap's previous employers and ignoring the "Terry Bickers; ex-House Of Love" posters on the pub walls, there's no denying that the first song sounds like "Destroy The Heart" caught in a shark-infested whirlpool with Silverfish.

But it's not all napalm-in-the-ears. Terry ups his IQ (Incandescent Quotient) for "Squirrel", featuring the kind of lustrous notes and intricate handcraft that probably gives Guy Chadwick sleepless nights. Failed Lester Bangs wannabees who used to give HoL reviews extolling the virtues of Bickers' radiant guitar effects will still be ransacking the lexicon of light to describe this man's way with a fretboard. Bright's the word.

Dazzling's another. But you don't need it for "Smile", Levitation's very own entry into the Anthemic Rock Ballad hall of fame. It comes in three parts: the slow, insinuating, opening bit that grabs one's attention; the experimental, fiddly middle bit that takes liberties with one's attention; and the brain-squelching climactic bit that tramples all over one's attention with muddy hob-nailed boots.

On the other hand, Levitation are not a compelling sight. They hardly assault the crowd, and the latter, in turn, look severely underwhelmed. Granted, we're experiencing the band's virgin British appearance in conditions that can only be defined as Calcutta-like, but the tinned sardine-style circumstances aren't helped by the meagre quantities of charisma trickling off the stage.. We get efficient technicians when really we're gasping for stars.

This leaves us with the music itself upon which to base our assessment of Levitation. How quaint. "Paid In Kind" is what Television might have sounded like if they'd reformed in Camden in '87, "Rosemary Jones" is a dub-rock trance dance with gaps like canyons that puts Bicker's infatuation with PiL into practice. And "It's Time" is Bicker's Bert Weedon-ish primer that condenses a lifetime's obsession with the rock guitar into six minutes. Bark Psychosis, Tim, Buckley, "Astral Weeks", AR Kane, they're all in here.

The closing pair of songs are confusing. While "Usher" is turgid, grey John Major rock, during "Against Nature" Terry's man-on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown vocals and the blazing "Lust For Life" beat almost ignite and break into the cobalt-and-mercury downpour they've been threatening all evening. Levitation are suspended between such extremes. Hover and out.

Paul Lester - Melody Maker 22/29 Dec 1990

Camden Underworld - 2/3/91

"Rise And Shine"

Terry Bickers is a bit of a god. He is, after all, the man who blessed us with the exquisite, haunting and sensual "Christine" and "Love In A Car" and then he kicked us in the head with the no-nonsense chaotic riffs of "Real Animal" and "Salome". These are achievements that can only be admired. Now, in the year or so since his acrimonious departure from The House Of Love, Bickers has put together a band which, in the performance stakes certainly, wipes the floor with THOL.

From the moment they appear on stage everything goes uphill. Bickers is a musician not a singer, so this is a musicians' band. And it shows. Drummer Dave Francolini recently graced Julian Cope's "Peggy Suicide" album with his more than ample talents, and the rest of the band - keyboard player Bob White, bassist Laurence O'Keefe, guitarist Bic Hayes - all ascend to spectacular heights with the tight proficiency of their playing. They become a zenith, a colossal dam-burst of expressions, flooding us with vivid and wild torrents of sublime sensation and random feeling. Bickers and Hayes indiscriminately manipulate us with each note, each chord. The songs have titles like "Against Nature" and "World Around", but this doesn't matter at all.

What matters is the music - beautiful, brutal, emotional. Francolini's primal, almost tribal, rhythms emphasise it. They seethe with an unkempt, primitive passion, a sort of ancient chaos that triumphantly and proudly struts the stage. Bickers' voice is way down in the mix - at times barely audible above his band's dizzying musical merry-go-round - and I'm still in two minds about whether he's better off sticking to guitar. But he's got the makings of a classic performer - wide eyes and long hair coupled with the delight and eagerness he takes in performance.

On the rise.

Michael Bonner – Melody Maker 9 Mar 1991

Britain hasn't produced many genuine axe gods over the past few years. Think about it - John Squire is too introspective, Mark Day is too ugly, and that bloke from The Sundays is so f***ing boring it's a job to even remember his name. However, one person does have the presence, sleight of hand and raw sex appeal to warrant immortality. Yep, it's that man Terry Bickers.

To be honest, in his capacity as singer-guitarist with Levitation, Tel doesn't quite cut the dashing figure he did during his time with The House Of Love. These days his Rickenbacker is slung a little too high and there's a dubious session-man pony-tail. But, despite the visual trappings of a born-again muso, when he unleashes a fit of unbridled six-string cruelty there is no more compulsive a spectacle to be found on the planet.

Naturally, the band consists of a little more than Terrence and his amazing performing hairstyle - his four associates do make weighty contributions themselves. They're a strange-looking bunch: two emaciated hippies, a chain-smoking moptop, and a speccy boffin on keyboards, all of whom combine to create a vastly expansive din that is massive without being oppressive.

This is some feat considering the influences they draw on. Bickers brazenly admits to an admiration for Hawkwind, and songs such as "Against Nature" and "Usher" suggest there might also be a taste for other prog rock atrocities. It's a minor miracle how they steer clear of overbearing pomposity.

The finest ten minutes of the evening are clocked up with the megaton riffs and pedal-induced warp-out of "Smile". Moving effortlessly from a subdued chime to a feedback holocaust, it must be a contender for next month's debut single. And if the song does make it onto the forthcoming vinyl, there'll be no doubting that Terry Bickers has transcended his past and that Levitation are stars in the ascendant.


London Mean Fiddler - 3/4/91

"Madcaps Laugh"

They begin so audaciously, i still catch my breath thinking about it. The DJ is spinning the legendary Hendrix version of "All Along The watchtower" and, just as it gets to the bit in the middle where ol' Jimi sounds as if he's hoovering up the universe, the elfin Bickers sneaks the band on stage and edges them into some weird improv jag. Jesus, it's oriental, it's feedback, it's chaos that's just beginning to make sense, just starting to locate some semblance of pattern between the dual guitars and the happy-go-blown-Diddley drumming stops.

Talk about setting out your stall alongside the gods! Talk about Levitation. You will!

The crowd are astounded. They gawp. Compared to this, Bickers' last band, The House Of Love, are lumbering pub rock, strictly average Joes. This is scary shit. The next song has some form of sorts. Bickers is electric, his face a frozen scream, his eyes a burning madness not seen since Syd Barrett's, and no-one here can recall that far back. Bic Hayes, the big, ungainly one, is singing something like "There is an answer but i just can't find a way". Bickers keeps collapsing as if shot. Even judging by this year's extraordinary standards, this is something else.

"Nadine", the first track on the forthcoming, celestially brilliant "Coppelia" EP, is next. It's early Floyd-ish, stubbornly surreal. "Sugar ocean, sugar ocean..." Bickers' face is a private joke, a glazed, beatific smile. Then "Squirrel" and it's apparent Levitation are on a different sunbeam from all the new bouncing Byrds babies. They've gone deeper West Coast to the blasted blues of Quicksilver and early Dead, they've gone Roundhouse '68. Not retro though, just wired into the possibility of changing moods mid-song, of building and alleviating tension. Hayes is struggling with an awkward mike, his neck twisted in grunting agony as Bickers dreams Indian carpets and another magical EP track, "Paid In Kind", explodes through a spray of harmonics.

I already love this band more than any other for f***ing years. They're out there. They've got the real drop on this acid thing. "Rosemary Jones" says it all - "You know you're with friends so why be frightened?" Great, paranoid logic. Then "Smile", a cool, poised, kinetic reaction blasts the liquid sitar guitar into brittle shards, violin Johnny's devilish grin beaming down on Bickers writhing on his back, kicking his guitar, the Artful Dodger awful gone. He doesn't even reappear for the encore! It's a happening. And, oh yes, it will happen to you.

This is the rebirth of Progressive Rock. And hey, just think, what if they don't f*** it up this time!

Steve Sutherland - Melody Maker 13 Apr 1991

London New Cross Venue - 6/5/91

They walk onstage to screeching feedback, looking ill, artistic and strange. They're led by Terry Bickers, a man fast getting a reputation for out-Sealing even the most rampant New Age apologists, a flamboyant, pony-tailed stick insect who, since expulsion from The House Of Love, has been keeping his guitar on a leash rather than a strap.

Their first song, a tendon-straining instrumental staccato scream called "Sweaty Thing", lasts about 40 seconds. Levitation stare out the front rows like exotic villains for all of it. By the time Bickers steps up for an imperious croon through "Against Nature", the audience are fixated.

Levitation are being talked about, argued about, even laughed about, for being superheroic musicians, wrapped in improvisation and vertical take-off, and ripping the rug from the audience's feet as soon as they get a foothold. It's utterly true. Nothing on their current indie smash hit EP, "Coppelia", could prepare you for the mindshock of Levitation live. This band out-burn Jane's Addiction by about 7,000 per cent.

Tricky-fingered pocket spook guitarist Bic Hayes plays with his mouth wide open, as if in terror, and drummer Dave Francolini alternately seduces and victimises his kit, sucking on a cigarette while slashing at cymbals and executing ridiculously fast tribal drum tattoos. Bickers, a notoriously violent guitarist himself, jerks around madly every time the music reaches a climax, like a stunned marionette.

But you've got to just listen when they play something like "Bedlam". “Don't question everything!" roars the climax, as 14 separate Velvet Underground songs jostle for position. Zonked hippy stragglers reel bar-wards. They'd been led by music press hype to believe the Levitation boys were, uh, progressive rock a la old cosy types Gong and Steve Hillage. One unwanted pop purchase later, they've twigged the shocking truth: this is music on frayed nerves and borrowed time. Mad, bad and pretty suicidal to know, Levitation are the ultimate antidote to accepted indie torpor.

On the basis that if you're not doing it, you should at least be watching someone else do it, you should be watching Levitation

David Cavanagh - Select July 1991

"Higher And Higher"

The Sunflowers stare solemnly at us and knock up a few more would-be primitive black & white rock patterns, but aspire to little more than being the Mary Chain's un-gifted great-great-grandsons. And Cut Cut Emma are worse. They play a noise-laden grubby power pop which leaves me feeling bilious.

It's fascinating how the two great indie guitar icons of the late Eighties have gone such separate paths since the dissolution of their bands. Johnny Marr left The Smiths and went on crafting jaunty, infectious jangle-pop, working within song boundaries, while Terry Bickers...well, Terry Bickers has cut loose from any conventional moorings and gone a very long way out indeed. Levitation are a f***in' revelation.

Bickers himself looks great, a ponytailed wildman, in his white shirt every inch a more convincing and madder Messiah than David Icke. His merry pranksters cut the mustard too: Bic Hayes, alongside him on guitar, bays at the moon, screams silently and hangs his jaw open in mock-shock and genuine joy at the weird shit he's carving out of nowhere and taking to the same place. He goads us to a response - as if he needs to! We're gone already.

I mean, Bickers' House Of Love were always an exceptional and gifted band, sure. But this is something else. Where Guy Chadwick's crew only ever wanted to be the Velvets, Levitation wanna be f*** knows what. Even the prog-rock tag is vaguely misleading. Levitation improvise, wildly, yet they're never over-elaborate. They've a violent purity.

"Nadine", the most wracked and vital two minutes of noise this year yet, is wrenched out early, Bickers jackknifing as if in physical hurt yet grinning horribly. "All this energy!" he drawls sarcastically. He's only part-joking. For "Rosemary Jones" he juggles his guitar like it's white-hot. It sounds that way too. Levitation are a bright, bright glow.

So much is experimental, so much works. As Steve Sutherland noted, Levitation abhor the idea of closure, never want to say enough, are always pushing on further. Tonight, they play on into the night too long, so long that even I leave, but that's their creed - too much, too long, too far - and that's why their trip is so compelling.

Terry Bickers went on French TV recently and yelled "We'll do it our way! We don't need the Melody Maker! We don't need the NME!" This is true enough, but we certainly f***in' need him. Levitation are massive, and very, very much Out There.

Ian Gittins - Melody Maker 18 May 1991

“Prog What?”

Calling The House Of Wax Equations “weird” is a bit like describing John Major-personality-bypass as “uninteresting”. They start, but it takes five minutes before anything happens. They persevere, and free-falling, freeform rock is the order of the day, inviting crass Hendrix comparisons but then refusing to let them into the party.

Singer Howie is, frankly, fantastic: bog-eyed and screaming, he’s the archetypal night-and-daytripper way past the end of his tether. He’s also got a great effects pedal which sends his guitar screeching from each stack, alternately, and the kind of recklessly cavalier attitude that itself splendidly to the notion that Dr Phibes are making it up as they go along.

The crowd don’t know what to do with themselves, although in the searing “Sugarblast” someone holds up his hand, as if asking to be excused. In the face of alien soundtracks, let’s just say that Dr Phibes have some stupendously dull moments and then they have stunning explosions unequivocal magnificence, where Neanderthal man is brought sobbing to his knees.

Maybe they need each other. After all, even perpetual brilliance can become wearing after a while. A strange brew, for sure.

“Believe in what you feel and some of what you read,” announces Terry Bickers, sagely. Uh-huh. Calling Levitation “odd” is akin to saying that Dr Phibes are a bit hectic, actually. They start, but four and a half minutes pass before anything happens. (Note the conceptual link?) By the time they launch into “Against Nature”, they’re as highly strung as Pinocchio on the rack, rushing towards a bombastic terrain with suicidal imagination.

The mythology is the key factor: with Bickers we fully anticipate the berserk. C’mon, could you imagine Johnny Marr inventing a group like this? So Levitation create a soundtrack for a revolution in a narcotics factory, where the passer-by genuinely marvels at the collective’s dexterity and wonders out loud just how Bickers managed to communicate his influence-overloaded ideas to the rest of the band.

There are shades of ancient history within the likes of “Attached”, where Queen burst into bloom, and “Arks Of Light and Dew” which has bits uncannily similar to Big Country being played backwards. But if the Prog Rock of yore is the retro rock of today, where does that leave the lick-loving, formula-freaking Levitation? Hanging around the upper reaches of the stratosphere, one suspects.

A confession: your hack retires after 45 minutes, squeezed and squashed beyond sane redemption, and still unsure whether he’s just witnessed more rabid ramblings or rock being resurrected. You make up your own bloody mind – I’m still looking for mine…

Simon Williams – NME 18 May 1991

London Institute of Contemporary Art - 11/6/91

Levitation are, naturally, great: this is Terry Bickers, after all, free of the classicist strictures of The House Of Love, decorating a firmament of his own devising. It's a nice irony, too, that he actually has a better voice than Chadwick, swoony rather than weatherbeaten. And although I'd heard that oblivion had exacted a terrible price on his boyish beauty, he still looks like an angel.

And yet, and yet, Levitation are not quite the improvisational, prog-rock, Can-worshipping cosmonauts I'd been led to anticipate. Their precedents are more early Eighties than early Seventies. Much of this is "Heaven Up Here" in overdrive, or an abstract "Unforgettable Fire"; wonderstruck boys gasping and grasping at the glory of it all, bass like the cables of a suspension bridge, monumental minimalism, a thousand refractions of grey. It's spectacular, but sometimes too much of a spectacle; the light show is brilliant, the drum sound is expensive, there's an electric fan offstage to give Bickers' hair that windswept look.

Another problem is that Levitation are bit too much of a bombardment, even bombastic (I prefer Moose's casual apocalypse). At first it seems they're dead-set on brain-blasting us into submission (the Bickers lookalike on second guitar wears a perpetual gape of astonishment, as if to show us how we should be responding).

"Rosemary Jones" is where the nuances come out to play. Over a sensurround, panavisionary groove reminiscent of Talking Heads circa "The Overload", Bickers billows exquisite filigrees of John Martynish blues fumes. Imagine Loop produced by Eno and Lanois. "Nadine" is timeless psychedelia, but a little too succinct; the "sugar ocean" image is sweet, but a little pat. "Smile" has that deliciously epic riff, the kind of ziggurat flourish that no one dares to flaunt these days. Another song starts superbly, like watching a supernova through a stained glass window, then degenerates into an undifferentiated torrent, before finally blossoming as a cat's cradle of radiances.

It's with the encores that Levitation finally let loose from their moorings and ascend. Bickers mantras "burn the stars and stripes" amidst canopies and spires, crests and cataracts, before the song escalates into a deluge of light, an overmastering exhilaration, an almighty head-rush. In the final coda, the group disappear in a corona of their own igniting, Bickers babbling and beseeching in tongues.

Levitation could afford to be more delicate at times, but still offer pinnacles galore.

Simon Reynolds - Melody Maker

London Town and Country Club - 20/7/91

"Kick Class Rock ‘n’ Roll"
No doubt about it; if diversity is the key to pleasure then this bill could unlock Fort Knox and gleefully hold a toga party amongst the gold bullion. Ignore the Satanic connotations, with six bands in six hours for six quid this is one of those wholesome, old-fashioned VFM events where the vague theme seems to be which band can out-weird the rest of the bill without appearing blatantly ridiculous or ending up in the Funny Farm.

Not everyone's playing the game, though. For a dose of (relative) normality look no further than the beginning and ending of the evening; MIDWAY STILL take the daylight spot by the scruff of the neck and give it the kind of Fraggled-up whipping that causes Americanites to fall over and have guitar-gripping fits. They also shout a lot - ironically, natch - about punk rock.

KINGMAKER avoid alluding to the vagaries of '77, but their three-piece beat possesses a similarly debonair swagger, dragging Rock from out of the '80s floodlights and back into more intimate areas. At a brutally brief glance, they may look like the Kitchens but they sound like a sink savaging seven shades out of the Good Ship Axewielder. Shame no-one told the crowd Kingmaker weren't on until 11.15...

PULP are the party clowns and wisely flaunt the metaphysical red noses with deadpanned glee. Singer Jarvis is to all intents and purposes Frank Spencer auditioning for Saturday Night Fever, and therein lies the essence of Pulp - sartorial catastrophes dressed in funk-splattered overcoats. When they're not getting groovy, the fivesome are manufacturing an absurd brand of pop which is more sly than a fox with a crossbow. Furniture meets Chic and decides hey, maybe we can live together after all.

No such domestic bliss for SEE SEE RIDER. No soundcheck and plagued by technical termites, they're shocking for all the wrong reasons. As for LEVITATION, implausible is the word. A passer-by tells me of Terry Bickers' desire to record in space where the process isn't disturbed by the rumble of passing juggernauts, which probably says more about the band than a million prog rock-on amphetamines descriptions could ever hope to reveal.

Suffice to say that "Firefly" is brilliant stadium rock, "Against Nature" is more disjointed than a spineless cheetah and, such is their collective unorthodoxy, one suspects that but for the presence of Bickers, Levitation would still be playing third on the bill at The Marquee. In other words I haven't a f---ing clue what they're doing.

It's somewhat ironic - yet fitting on such a strange evening - that PALE SAINTS, who can normally be relied on to stumble, bumble and generally Get It Wrong, actually get their card tricks spot on. Too cold to worship, they still pad out every spare moment with a wash of effects, thus avoiding the traumas of communication. And being obtuse, they also refuse to roll out the sublime "Kinky Love".
Yet they flow with the kind of perfect awkwardness that comes from being tricky buggers on vinyl. The old stuff sounds great, the new material (particularly "Porpoise", and that's a bloody instrumental!) sounds even better. Meriel is an ideal harmonious asset and, frankly, they can fanny around as much as they want as long as they continue to show signs of fulfilling their promise of 18 months ago.

Simon Williams - NME

London Camden Palace - 24/9/91

Levitation blew our f***ing minds. Again.

Three times now.

Tonight had promised to be something of a disappointment, the set truncated by Camden Palace rules to a mere 30 minutes. Theoretically, Levitation's bombed, blitzing, ambient rock works best with no time limit. Live, the group believe, songs need to develop naturally. Nothing in their growth can be forced. Levitation are more concerned with where a groove or a beat can take them, rather than where they can take a song. They're aural chaos theory - a single time-change, one burst of feedback and possibilities begin to expand geometrically. The course of a whole show is altered.

Now, we've long sung the praises of new technology - the crystalline perfection of backing tapes, the guarantees of excellence afforded by sequencers, samplers and drum-machines. Levitation eschew all that, they off us no such guarantees. They simply deliver. Levitation may just be the only real band in Britain today. You can actually say of them things like "The drummer was brilliant" without any sense that you're slipping into some antiquated orthodoxy. Because the drummer, Dave Francolini, was brilliant. He didn't jerk off or merely give the songs their expected vertebrae, he contributed to Levitation's awesome unpredictability. The same could be said of each of them.

It took Levitation a while tonight to find the groove. And it speaks volumes for them that, knowing they only had half an hour, they even bothered to look for it. They could've just played the songs. Brilliant songs. Instead they felt their way into a sort of meditative rediscovery of them. Chords were bent and twisted, Bickers and Bic, the two guitarists, suddenly conjuring melodies and just as suddenly discarding them until, finally, a stray bullet-snare unexpectedly ignited a firestorm. We'd never dreamt Levitation could be this menacing, this aggressive.

From then on in, Levitation were indescribably intense, at times captivatingly beautiful, at others violent and punishing. "Smile", the final song (of five if you include the incredibly short burst of "Nadine"), their melodic acid masterpiece, began with the soft, soporific tones of Bob White's keyboard and ended in bedlam - Bickers dropping to his knees and Bic whirling across the stage, utterly out of it, looking like everything Angus Young ever should've been. A demented, uncontrollable child.

"Rules are rules," sneered Bickers cattily as the band left the stage. It's time to rehabilitate some tired old slogans for the most freeform, liberating band around today. Levitation are truly for all the f***ed-up children in the world.

Tune in. Turn on. Drop out.

THE STUD BROTHERS – Melody Maker 5 Oct 1991

London Shaftesbury's – 25/9/91

It’s about time the top-knob, all-seeing, karmic deity in charge of the universal vibration interceded in Levitation’s career. Tonight’s “After Ever Be” EP-based gig, the follow-up to the previous evening’s “Coppelia” slanted set at the Camden Palace, takes place in a West End disco, normally inhabited by foreigners on the pull, or hot pant-ed clubbers high on poppers. Even if it is an indie headshake night tonight, the vibes are wrong. In a just cosmos, Levitation would be playing atop a volcano, with donner und blitzen in their hair, lava up their noses, and a phalanx or two of druid stagedivers rock-leaping to their deaths below. They are nowt if not dramatic.

Dressed in functional gear, the five muso explorers hover in front of a perpetual tidal wave of intricately organised aural fractal chaos. There are two choices with Levitation. Titter, or be overwhelmed. And apart from one square chappie in slacks, casually licking an ice-cream, all of Shaftesbury’s go for the latter option, nodding their heads, eyes un-focused, like junkies in rocking chairs.

The gentle background melodies of new song “Attached” and the minute structural detailing in “Firefly” tend to be somewhat lost in the live maelstrom. And Terry Bickers’ voice is more of a memory of a voice floating back through years of heavy hallucinations. Not Nina Simone yet. But the success of Levitation (and they are a huge extravagant success, even if they sell less records than My Solid Wombat) lies in their ability to mind-bend you into a state of naked impressionability, where the shivering tension of the sustained note held by a pudgy finger on a fretboard can seem like it’s about to access the void for you. You get into it or you lick your ice-cream.

I’m sure that, at one point tonight, Bickers announced a song with the words “This one’s called “Ceiling” ‘cause I never come down off it”. You have to hope he said that. Because having been sniped at erroneously as someone Roger Dean-ed out of his noodle, it would imply an unswerving commitment to mental extremity. And that’s reassuring, because Levitation’s pursuit of New Head Music (forget Progressive Rock, this is Mind Punk) is completely brave and completely essential. Not even The Orb are going this far out.

There is the odd moment when you crave a simple pop tune, like Faure’s Requiem, or something, but then they sweep you off again with the daring of their imploding compositions. The final song, “Bedlam”, beginning with the immortal line “I want to go to heaven for the weekend”, is a death or glory charge into a Gordian knot of discord, culminating in Bickers barking “F---! F---!” into the four corners of hell. Briefly Shaftesbury’s blazed. Primal cream or what?


New York Marquee - 1/11/91

"England's Dreaming"

Tonight is one of the showcases that accompany the annual CMJ (College Media Journal) seminar. American college rock is Anglophile; in the last few months, nine out of the Top Ten college radio albums have been British. Between sets tonight, the video screen offers an endless sequence of promos for UK "alternative" has-beens (Siouxsie, Gang Of Four, BAD II, Psychedelic Furs) whose careers have all had a second wind Stateside. Live, though, it's young bloods all the way, with this triple bill of US debuts.

Stifled somewhat by a dowdy sound, and the lack of their usual light-barrage and off-stage electric fan, Levitation nonetheless unleash a reasonably mighty bombardment. Despite recent awestruck testaments to their rulebook-shredding majesty, I'm still stuck on the fence about Levitation, just as they seem to be stuck mid-field between melodic neo-psychedelia and freeform oceanic rock. At their least, Levitation are like the Bunnymen meets King Crimson (on "Firefly", Bickers shrieks like Ian McCulloch struck by lightning). At their considerable most, their mercury-wash monsoon rages with a fearsome urgency.

Rooted in the blues-less abstraction of Television, Levitation offer a lacerating euphoria that's cerebral rather than from the hip. There's something vaguely crusading about their quest for glory; U2 could have sounded like this if they'd dropped an equivalent tonnage of hallucinogens. "Rosemary Jones" is where the sole concessions to the below-waist side of rock occur, an undulating groove over which shimmer exquisite guitar shadings like smoke passing through a searchlight's beam. "Smile" escalates into a fraught flux, an ovewhelming, majestic crush. Kingdom come.

In 1991's pop-schema, Slowdive are shaping up as Fleetwood Mac to Manic Street Preachers' Sex Pistols, with Rachel as a Home Counties Steve Nicks and whoever it is who empowers her in those lustrous soundgardens as Lindsay Buckingham. Just as Fleetwood Mac turned hippy blues into soft rock, so Slowdive have transmuted Goth into sofa rock - the wide-panning drum beats and basslines are pure Joy Division, while the stuff of their sound is far more Cocteaus than My Bloody Valentine. There's none of the Valentine's sexual heat, just rippling waves of chaste, inviolate sound. Slowdive's best songs, like the poignant "Shine", evoke a pastoral paradise lost: water meadows, sunspots-in-her-hair, ruined abbeys, gazing at cloud-castles. At their best, Slowdive are everything Loop should have been on "A Gilded Eternity" - lustrous entropy, lapidary lassitude, anaemia as state-of-grace. At their worst ("Ballad Of Sister Sue"), they are listless easy listening that builds bridges between "Bluebell Knoll" and "Knights In White Satin", that cross the fine line between rhapsody and repose, synaesthesia and anaesthesia. And they're a bit pointless as a live experience, so immaculately do they replicate the records. Unable to drift off into private reveries, you have to look at Rachel's annoyingly smug countenance, like Winona Ryder playing a nun.

Like Slowdive, Blur are on SBK Records over here. This is appropriate, since Damon could outdo labelmates Vanilla Ice and Jesus Jones in empty self-regard any day. Fresh from the Ian Brown school of circular logic ("I think stellar, therefore I am stellar"), Damon exudes the fey insolence and silver-spoon narcissism of Lower Sixth public schoolboys who haven't yet been saddled with prefect status. Once, people wanted to be famous for something: nowadays, you get these post-Wendy James types who want to be famous for their lust for fame. And so Blur are praised for being more "ambitious" than their peers. Possibly because there's nothing much to them but ambition. Blur's perfect pop is a strategic combination of sellable features: deja vu sixties harmonies meets sub-funky shuffle and guitars. Nasal, faintly psychedelic tunes bleed grey, like The Wonder Stuff on diet pills, and Damon's much-vaunted charisma seems to consist mainly of leaping about a bit and wearing a sneer. Pampered, pilfered, piffle, Blur put the c*** in "pretty vacant".

SIMON REYNOLDS - Melody Maker 16 Nov 1991

Oxford Polytechnic - 20/2/92

"More E, Bickers?"

Are Levitation too far out?

"Coterie" is reverberating to a close. There's an end of sorts in sight, a relief from this throbbing intensity. I think we've survived. Dave Francolini has other ideas. He's kicking through his drum kick with a f***ing great cymbal raised above his head. Through the smoke we glimpse his eyes - he's raging and he's heading for Bickers, who's on the retreat. Dave hurls the cymbal down awesomely close to where Bickers was standing, oh, a tenth of a second ago. Then he storms off. Bickers turns to us and he's shaking. And smiling. He reaches for a microphone and says "I didn't think it was THAT bad!" Then he, too, strides off. What the f*** was that all about? What the f*** is going on?
Some of this packed Poly crowd manage applause. Most are just stunned, shocked and deafened into silence. A few minutes pass and Bickers comes back on, alone. "Until we get ourselves back together, this is "Sacred Lover"..." and he sings something we've never heard before, the veins on his neck standing out thick as rope, his eyes glazed in what could be terror or concentration, or, probably, both. He finishes and the crowd don't know what to make of it or how to react. Julianne Regan says later that she felt it would have been impolite to applaud. Certainly, considering the baffling drama unfolding up there, it would have been inappropriate - almost too small and cliched a gesture.

Bickers smiles and is about to exit again when he apparently feels we're due some explanation: "Uh...he got very annoyed so there we are. Uh...he cracked his finger..." I have visions of Dave backstage punching walls, punching the others, punching himself. This is no destructive charade. This is REALLY 4 real. The house lights come up and nobody knows whether Levitation are still a band or not, whether we'll ever be blasted like this again.

They'd begun before they began. Before they'd even appeared we were seduced into swaying along to an insistent, urgent undulation emanating from the speakers. I discover later that this is "Mantra", which is monumentally long and due to appear on Levitation's next EP along with "Resist", which they play later and which is howling, and something called "Purgatory", which they've never played anywhere and aren't about to start now. There are, apparently, nine different mixes of "Mantra", one for each night of this tour. Tonight's the first night and as Bickers stalks on, his hair yanked back in a ponytail, the sides of his head brutally shaved like some medieval Mongolian warrior, his guitar already feeding back, it occurs to me that Levitation tuning up are a more cosmic experience than most bands in full flight.

This is about the last opportunity I have for thought for...I dunno. Levitation really f*** with time. Come to think of it, Levitation really f*** with everything! "Twice" is new and a whirling agony of individual energies. I can't get a grip. As it burns to a close, Bic, the artful Dodger on E, races to the front. "What about that then?" he screams. There's no pause for recovery. "Resist" ravages our nerves, "Hang Nail" reeks of grandeur. "Firefly", "Pieces Of Mary"...there's so much involved, so many angles, so many places it could all go right or wrong, so many points of departure. Honestly, it's all too much.
"You scratch our backs and we'll toast your marshmallows!" I can't believe Bickers just said that. All around me people have their eyes closed. It's as if, in their struggle to take it all in, to get their heads around it, the additional gift of vision would overload their senses, already besieged beyond endurance. Some people are wobbling around in the semblance of dance but most are nailed rigid.

The band appear to consider this muted response some failure on their part to communicate. For some reason beyond mortal comprehension, Bickers is screaming "Where's the captain's table?" Their frustration is palpable.

Are Levitation too far out? Is it that, while other bands take it one step at a time, Levitation have leapt into space and severed the umbilical chord? They don't think so. They reckon when other bands improvise, it's wank, just taking time, doodling for the sake of it. Levitation get to the point then cut to another and another and another in a ruthless excess of climaxes. We just can't keep it up that long.

We recognise the stately sweep of "Smile" and the orchestrated mugging of "World Around" and we're begging to grow more ears to take it all in or for it all to slow down for a second or something. Why does it all have to be this complicated? Well, probably because it IS all this complicated. Y'know, life.

Tonight Levitation are amazing, a band possessed, and we just don't know how to respond. Turns out Bickers lied about Dave. "It was just something between me and my kit. I just needed to see how hard I had to hit the bass drum with my cymbal before the skin broke. It was nothing. We're f***ing nothing...f***ing nothing. Where's that spliff?"

Are Levitation too far out? Or are we just too far in?

STEVE SUTHERLAND - Melody Maker 29 Feb 1992

Liverpool Krazy House - 27/2/92

That Uncertain Feeling look cute in that young, floppy fringed kind of way - and at their best their melancholic moodiness recalls Joy Division. Sadly, their strong points remain submerged in the unfocused grind of most of tonight's set, which is reminiscent of all those dreadful early '80s Goth bands. The positive moments come with "Sunriser", their Dead Dead Good debut single, which throbs along nicely with a vague hint of menace, and "Truth", the closing chunk of frenetic noise which succeeds in shaking off their Stretford sulkiness.

Levitation, however, are an entirely different kettle of musical weirdness. From the opening agonised assault of "Twice" it's clear that watching them requires a special effort from the audience. They inhabit a lurid, freaky world all of their own, which makes all standard reference points irrelevant. If you're not prepared to go with the flow and lose yourself in their spaced-out antics then you might as well stay at home.

These special terms put extra pressure on the band to be compelling. But tonight, as the odour of a changing room full of unwashed socks drifts gently off the stage, they miss the mark. Even the current single "World Around", the most "together" of their recorded works, is dragged out at the same dreary pace as everything else, losing all the necessary urgency as it's reduced to mere aimless waffle. Old favourites like "Nadine", and new songs like "Resist" (about the perils of watching TV) fail to reach the ethereal heights they obviously aspire to, dribbling away into ineffectual, dreamy doodles.

Lacking any fire or inspiration the sprawling, semi-improvised, metallic constructions come across as the worst kind of self-indulgent musical excess. Halfway through the set even Bickers, the madly magnetic frontman, seems to lose interest and that's it. Game over.

On other nights, Levitation can be a dynamic and uplifting live experience, but on a strangely flat, below par night like this they sound like tarted up prog-rockers making a lot of uninteresting noise about nothing.

KEV MCMANUS - NME 14 Mar 1992

London Town and Country Club - 16/4/92

Sweet Jesus are the Ramones of re-modelled glam. They have one good idea and they push it in your face so hard that you can't tell if it's a pain or a pleasure. The anonymous three-man drone guitar and drum team hammer away at two-chord, ramalama, tunnel grunge pop spurts, while the silk-shirted, glitter guitar-strapped, spiney-pompadoured, proper-little-narcissist frontman extemporises trilling saccharine vocal hooks over the top.
For three minutes this is fine. Ben Bentley's voice is stratospherically peculiar enough to offset his problematic resemblance to David Gedge in a McCulloch wig. As a sexually non-specific dazzle of self-love, skipping and caroling across monochrome speed-grind noise it's briefly fascinating. But, for all the drawing-board potential of the Brummie four's stratagem - disposable star fixation plus sludge noise plus androgyny - they're currently more a swift neon blitz of buzzwords than a sustaining live phenomenon. You get the idea, then you're left wondering whether song on song of grey distortion means Levitation hogged the soundcheck.
I think Levitation hogged the soundcheck. Because, as the pyramid backdrop lights up and the spooky intro tape fades away, and Bickers and his commune of instrumental techno-flash obsessives explode into "Twice", it sounds like a 40-piece experimental jazz orchestra trying to lift the roof off Valhalla. Broadcast as part of the opening celebrations for XFM radio, tonight's Levitation show-off has a radio-bursting intensity to it. Songs from the forthcoming LP, "Resist", like "Hangnail" and "World Around", are delivered with a relentless heavy pressure drive, closer to ultra-sophisticated Speed Metal than their supposed hippy-dippy prog rock roots.
The current Levitation have astral travelled way beyond normal rock band behaviour. The way they build to an epileptic pitch and suddenly cut out into intricate pressed-flower passages borders on brilliance. The sight of Bickers, straining neck tendons as he wrenches out communal consciousness babble poetry about "the outskirts of eternity", while the dry ice engulfs him and the pyramid glows, verges on the Spinal-ly ridiculous.
But Levitation have floated so far out into the scary mists of deep-space rock, into a region where looking for reference points means staring quarks and black holes and frozen mammoths in the face, that comparisons with earthly beat combos or, for that matter, ideas of approval or disapproval, are somewhat buggered.
The Levitation lovers down the front just stand still with their eyes closed, sponging up the, erm, "experience", like Stonehenge had descended. In the face of the thundering phantasmagoria that is Bickers' band, there's not much choice. You're either, like, overwhelmed, or you're off the bus, man. "We are the rag and bone men of rock", announces Terry to the pummelled throng. Send him your space junk now.


“And So To Bedlam”

They’ve come down to our humble level tonight and almost rubbed ontological shoulders with us. The last time I saw Levitation I left shell-shocked, because the sheer enormity of the show, the mind-spinning intensity of the whole experience, was in the realm of the supra human. Their power simply refused response. Tonight though, participation is back. Two songs in, during the incandescent “Firefly”, the moshers down the front are threshing and clumping about like there’s no tomorrow (there isn’t, Bickers would probably say, but more of that later) and I limp out of harm’s way with a savage booting that’s run the length of my shinbone. I mean, physical injury, at a Levitation gig?

This being the venue it is, the requisite massive volume is wanting, but Levitation are still one snowblind rush into a noisy oblivion, the most gloriously ordered chaos there is, a tour de force through darklands that most of us would be too scared to make alone. Not that there’s much of comfort, what with Bickers demanding in what seems to be his personal mantra, that we “question everything”, and the way each epic tune leads us to the edge of some seductive void then leaves us hanging there to find our own way back if we get anxious. No, Levitation won’t give you many answers, but they sure as hell ask powerful questions in strange and beautiful ways.

”We’re the rag and bone men of rock, apparently,” grins Bickers, and it’s true. Levitation have loaded up with the kind of prog stuff – Yes and Grateful Dead for example – most everyone else is too embarrassed to be seen with, and have made from it something new and thrilling. There are those who sneer and reckon this lot have their backs to the future, but live they career into the wild unknown.

Tonight Levitation play it heavy all over. Their “World Around” leans on as thunderous a bassline as anything by Killing Joke and Bickers even begins to sound like Coleman, another certified nutter, but it soon breaks into head-cleaning open spaces. “Hangnail” is Yes, pretty much, a flayed anthemic thrust, all demon-filled thunder, but “Jay” is an altogether sweeter tumult. They don’t play “Smile”, the closest they are ever likely to get to pop, but the awesome “Pieces Of Mary” more than compensates. It’s nothing less than a furious lash, a compulsive surge to the lip of the abyss and then a pull back to reason just in the nick of time. It spins me back to childhood flying dreams, where I’d wake with a start because I’d lurched too recklessly over a peak.

Levitation are about inevitable surrender and to hell with the consequences, liberation through submission, and the like. Theirs is one brave unheeding bedlam. Beautiful, and bent.

Sharon O’Connell - Melody Maker 2 May 1992

London Astoria - 4/6/92

“Have Levitation finished yet?” inquires Punter One of Punter Two as they pass on the Astoria stairs.

"Can't tell!" says Punter Two.

Ha! No irony at all. Levitation are less a band, more a rapidly-expanding stain. No defined edges and a very indistinct centre. Pundits of a wishful disposition have called them Prog Rock. Why? Because they ain't got no tunes. As the inev wind machine sends dry ice eddying around Terry Bickers' assembled leather grimmos, it becomes all too clear that Levitation are the classic lead guitarist's band. A frustrated sideman’s folly. Supressed yet truly wondrous in the House Of Love, Bickers is now just wandering about, lost, trying to be a singer, trying to be a focal point, and trying to extract fiddly magic from his axe. These fine aspirations compromise one another, and you're left with little more than cut-rate bluster. A ton of smoke without so much as a whiff of fire. Have they even started? Can't Tel.

The balcony's closed. This is significant at the grubby old Astoria - in order to make the place look good, it's downstairs only. Et voila! The place seems healthily packed. BUT IT ISN'T! Whooo-oooo-oooh. This Levitation/ Cardiacs double-header always did look rather ambitious. Full marks for trying and everything, but at the end of the day, it's the Death To Music Roadshow. Levitation attempt to destroy music from within by being vacuous and musicianly, whilst The Cardiacs are content to just stomp up and down on music's head until it's brains come out. Poor old music.

Lucky they've hauled along Radiohead for life support. This plucky five-piece, who gave our own On page the finger last week, combine the playful-puppiness of the Milltowns with the "attitude" of Kingmaker. Singer Thom knows precisely when to drop in a Coughlan-esque "f*** you!" (ie after a really delicate, tinkly guitar break). Hell, there's even a bass solo! This is incredibly thoughful power-up angstmusic for angstpeople, and I can see Radiohead taking off. Touch that dial!

The Cardiacs, sadly, are forever destined to "fill" (hem hem) the Astoria for the same old soppy Further Education diehards in flower shirts. Singer Tim may have grown his hair and put on about three stone since I last caught them at the Astoria, but the Cardiacs' amphetamine quirkiness and stop-start music hall remains depressingly the same.

It begins with a taped marching-band salute, fluttering confetti replacing Levitation's Dantean inferno, like a tiny Nuremburg for Red Dwarf fans in second hand jackets, and, in a thousand years’ time, these daft people will still be clinging to the ritual. Downstairs only, of course. The Cardiacs are the archetypal Misunderstood Band - mostly by their fans, who think they're good.

Have Levitation finished yet? Don't care.


London New Cross Venue - 28/11/92

No one who was there will ever forget the last time Levitation played this place. Bickers and co seemed to have floated off into some manic, twilight world of their own and the steady stream of ashen-faced initiates pushing breathlessly past me, trying to escape, attested to the fact that this was not just another gig. It was an experience.

But the question had to be asked: where the f*** could any band go from here?

Levitation duly began a process of implosion. Subsequent gigs were tired and pale and the boys began to bicker. For the last six months, they've been quiet and one began to suspect that this kaleidoscopic bubble had finally burst. Tonight, therefore, we come not knowing what to expect. The Levs have just signed a new deal with Chrysalis and we've been promised a set composed mostly of new songs.

The first half hour tends to confirm my worst fears; only "World Around", the one-time single, contains anything of the unpredictable, maverick sweep that once drew me back time after time, like some helpless voyeur. Bickers sounds detached and jaded. The tunes don't gel and the playing is clumsy.
Then, suddenly, halfway in, they hit "Evergreen" and everything snaps into place. The sound becomes expansive and urgent as of yore, big enough to lose yourself in and not even think about coming back. The best description I've seen of this band in this mood comes from a flyer for a San Franciscan rave; "Let your mind go to jello and watch it wiggle," it said. Now the new ones - "Bodiless", "Food For Powder", "Hangnail" both hint at Levitation's past and show the way to a lither, perhaps more focused future. The encores of "Firefly" and "Attached" are immense. This is what we came for. Levitation are not people to make predictions about, but for the time being, anyway, they're back and (still) on fire.

ANDREW SMITH – Melody Maker 12 Dec 1992

Hackney Empire - 2/4/93

"Houses Of The Holy"

An intriguing evening was promised: four acts who take the idea of ambience and send it spinning wildly in different directions. Two years ago, such a bill wouldn't have been countenanced, even in the form of a Shelter benefit. Now, it seems entirely logical and right.

There was much advance speculation as to what we could expect from Irresistible Force and The Aphex Twin. In fact, they were DJ-ing, the Twin before Levitation came on and IF's silver-suited Mixmaster Morris between bands, and then again at the end.

The latter, a kind of Techno pied piper, has been making a name for himself by turning up unannounced at clubs and raves, playing weird, trippy sets which have been known to profoundly f*** up with unwary heads. Morris does indeed spin an extraordinary aural web, though most of tonight's crowd miss the bulk of it, leaving immediately Spiritualized vacate the stage. Read on, and I'll tell you why.

It's almost a year since Levitation played their last full tour. My own memory of those shows is of standing spellbound as scores of startled, ashen-faced punters staggered past, overcome by the intensity of Terry Bicker's demented, stream-of-consciousness ranting and the crushing force of the noise roaring like fire from the stage. Many people didn't enjoy those gigs, but no one will forget them. Afterwards, so the legend goes, Bickers lost it completely and the band, who'd come so close, flickered into silence.

Now the Levs are evidently back on the rails. Bickers seems to have dropped his ambition to become the next Dalai Lama; he's cut his hair and the band have signed to Chrysalis. Drummer Dave Francolini has promise a "mellow" set tonight, which is a bit like a black widow spider offering to give you a "small" bite. Even so, something is not right. The old tunes are fine, though no more than that, and the new ones, with the exception of the blistering new single, "Even When Your Eyes Are Open", often seem unfocused and aimless. Only a demonic, 10-minute reading of "Smile" at the close redeems what is, for this band, a lacklustre set. Maybe "mellow" doesn't suit them. I think of Levitation as convalescent giants.

If David Mellor were to turn up disguised as Joan Of Arc with the entire Chelsea squad and proceed to shag them in turn, it wouldn't provide a greater contrast to what's gone before than Spiritualized do. If you haven't seen them, you might well imagine the languid contours of "Lazer Guided Melodies" to be uncomfortable in a live setting. In the event, theirs is probably the most consistently dazzling show you can see anywhere, the closest you can get to tripping without doing anything illegal. Inspector Knocker should look into Spiritualized.

The stage set-up is eccentric, with Jason on the right, surrounded by monitors, facing across the stage towards the other band members, who now include a three-piece horn section. They appear to be making no effort, working with texture and repetition. Sometimes, as on "Step Into The Breeze", the simple tunes ebb and flow as if merely obeying a law of nature; sometimes, as on "If I Were With Her Now" or "I Want You", they grow into monstrous, elemental grooves, which combine with the strobing, shimmering lightshow to mesmeric effect.

At points, Spiritualized make you feel as though you've been transported to Height Ashbury circa 1967 - except you know it was never as real as this. At others, most noticeably during the explosive, 15-minute climax, where the band is obscured by smoke and overhead lasers whir like kaleidoscopic rotor blades, it's like stepping into the finale from "Apocalypse Now", with Brando's head at your feet.
Eight hundred people are left shaking their heads and blinking. Did I really see that? I did. It was good.

ANDREW SMITH - Melody Maker 17 Apr 1993

"Empire Of The Sensuous"

A bald man in a silver suit is pumping plumes of silver smoke from the balcony in between playing mood-altering ambient tape-loops. Below him, the hippy children of the home counties send up puffs of warm smoke than blend together and form mini mushroom dope clouds. No-one notices.

Welcome to the four-hour Hackney-coloured dream. Spiritualized have deliberately dragged us to the far-out, far reaches of East London to witness this extravaganza, and once you get inside the Victorian palace that is the Empire, you begin to understand why. Believe me, it's wasted on Billy Bragg. Oil lamps glow all around the auditorium and a huge music hall safety curtain gets raised and solemnly lowered between bands.

Pretentious wank, yes; boring, it's not. What they're trying to tell us is that concerts don't have to be these strange rituals where one person in five is wearing a black T-shirt, that they might actually be a spectacle.

So why didn't anyone tell Levitation? There are joss-stick fires raging all over their amps but when they troop onstage they're about as sexy and mysterious as The Godfathers. There are five of them and Terry Bickers is the one in the black T-shirt. Which is bad luck, because Levitation are plagued by all our expectations.

They're the band Neil Armstrong should have formed on the way back from the moon (note all the references to space shuttles and interstellar guitars), they're the far-flung future of rock and shareholders in the Flat Earth Society to boot. So why do they look and sound so deflatingly ordinary in the midst of such psychedelic proceedings?

"World Around" gets left at home, the Sesame Street theme gets a spoken word treatment from Terry and boundaries remain thoroughly unbroken.

"I like a bohemian atmosphere!" chirps Tel in a wry nod to Performance. Maybe, but prog-rock and cockernee asides are only any good when the tunes set in. Lift off is therefore temporarily delayed.
Spiritualized, however, headed for inner space long ago. "Lazed Guided Melodies" may have been the illegitimate child of "Dark Side Of The Moon" but it was sleepily great all the same, and now they're better - less hazy, and laced with, believe it or not, a golden thread of arrogance.

Where before their songs would climb almost unwittingly from a single bass note into big spongy washes of sound, now they begin with a growl from the organ and end up as huge brassy, late-'60s concertos that swagger along, explode into crystals and then start all over again.
"Medication", of course, was the turning point, where Jason hitched a ride with the devil and left his old friends at the crossroads.

Live, it comes at us like a blinding flash that causes eyes to dilate wildly and heads to start throbbing in sympathy.

The lasers might just have something to do with it as well...What it signifies is that for all the casual nodding approval it gets, Spiritualized are drilling a hole in our preconceptions and mostly everyone here bar the three wise souls at the front are falling rapidly through them.

"Smile" is equally monstrous, where the riff from, of all things, "Let's Spend The Night Together", gets mashed up and then ebbs and flows for the best part of ten minutes.

Touring America with the Mary Chain has shaped these bent-out-of-shape trances, and it's exactly what they needed. There's the faint whiff of bedroom acid trips and dope-cake navel-gazing, but there's a soul beating deep inside Spiritualized now that makes them unworldly and glamorously psychedelic-cool at the same time.

From Rugby with love, and headed straight for the centre of your mind.

Paul Moody - NME 17 Apr 1993