Space, with that line up in 1997 of Tommy, Franny, Jamie and Yorkie (plus Andy P), were always a peculiar bunch. After reviewing the vinyl re-release of Spiders (which is here and out as a new purple vinyl), it returned me to their albums over the singles, despite hits from both being high-definition indie hits from the late 90s era. This second album was released at the end of December ’97, which seems crazy now, with its summery vibe, but music was quick and fast then, and fits within the moment.
This is a band entrenched in the Britpop era, and Tin Planet continued their unique brand of music, an amalgamation of catchy melodies, string sections (such a stalwart of the time), and a lesser chaotic vibe than of that on Spiders. Also, with the permanent addition of Franny Griffiths, they up the ante on dance/pop tracks like Disco Dolly and The Man, which remain great tunes that slightly echo the likes of Bentley Rhythm Ace in their exploration, but with a ‘Space’ sound in the middle.
While this is an album I revisit from time to time, it’s clear that I over-listened to the likes of Avenging Angels and The Ballad of Tom Jones, despite the latter being a bona fide Indie classic with Tommy and Cerys Matthews swapping through their excellent Liverpool and Welsh accents with an ode to one of the greatest singers of all-time, but because they feel a little more tired than other album tracks.
Opening Begin Again holds an unusual western stylistic, which was also present on The Bluetones’ Return to Last Chance Saloon (recent re-release reviewed here) from 1998 – hey, we all loved tequila then, like a LOT – and it’s a rousing opener which works as both an introduction to the second album, and a literal description of where the band are artistically. We then hit those two singles, Avenging Angels and The Ballad of Tom Jones, before settling down into the more melodic duo of 1 O’clock and Be There, both strewn in relationship angles and imaginative storytelling.
Tin Planet suffers a little from an overexuberance of assorted styles, tracks like A Little Biddy Help from Elvis, and Piggies, could easily be B-Sides from back in the day, and would even the album out to a nice 11 tracks without filler. I’m a big fan of the world created in The Unluckiest Man in the World though, and Bad Day’s – alongside There’s No You – which really keep that intimate edge that’s less present in their debut Spiders. Bad Day’s gives a lovely flip on superheroes juxtaposed against reality, and There’s No You another more melody-led song with a memorable chorus.
In-between all this, you’ve got the epic, and previously mentioned dance partners of The Man and Disco Dolly, with Fran in Japan finishing off the fun as we go full rave-Prodigy of the early-era that makes you wonder if they could have had a double album, one with dance tracks and one with more storytelling.
Either way, Tin Planet sits nicely alongside their debut Spiders as a unique confirmation that Space really were one of the most unique bands of that era, finding their own niche with individual, weird songs that people still love today. Which is all any band can want, really!