Avenging Angels: The Best of Space

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Liverpool four-piece Space were never quite taken as seriously as their Brit-pop counterparts, their penchant for black comedy, kitsch-filled lounge-pop, and high-camp promo videos perhaps a little too off-kilter to fit in with the era's Cool Britannia aesthetics. However, despite not gracing the Top 40 since 1998, their back catalog has since been given the same kind of treatment usually afforded to much more critically lauded and prolific musical icons. Avenging Angels: The Best of Space is their third greatest-hits collection, fourth if you count 1997's remix-led Invasion of the Spiders, a remarkable tally considering the band only released a total of three studio albums. This 2009 two-CD collection is their most extensive yet, featuring 38 tracks from the first five years of Space's career but ignoring their final 2004 album, the low-selling but fan-loved Suburban Rock 'n' Roll, completely. With the exception of "No One Understands" and "Major Pager," all of 1996 debut Spiders, an infectious combination of eccentric orchestral pop, electronic loops, and humorous lyrical themes, is included, the highlights being the Burt Bacharach-esque "Female of the Species," written by frontman Tommy Scott as a tribute to his late father; the eerie curtain-twitching tale of "Neighbourhood," which manages to make Lloyd Grossman's catch phrase "Who lives in a house like this?" sound sinister; and the Happy Mondays-influenced politically conscious "Love Child of the Queen." The equally quirky but more polished follow-up Tin Planet appears in its entirety here, with the standouts being "The Ballad of Tom Jones," the brilliantly twisted duet with Catatonia's Cerys Matthews that tells the story of a murderous relationship saved from the brink thanks to the voice of the Welsh crooner; the '50s rock & roll-inspired "A Liddle Biddy Help from Elvis"; and the authentic '70s-style funky bass-led disco of "The Man." Despite the omission of their final LP, Avenging Angels remains essential for any Space fan due to its inclusion of their Top 20 cover of the Animals' "We Gotta Get Out of This Place," several B-sides, and four tracks from the previously unreleased 2001 album Love You More Than Football. Produced by Edwyn Collins, the melancholic Echo & the Bunnymen-ish ballad "Gravity" and the punchy pop of stalker anthem "Diary of a Wimp," just as inventive and curious as their previous releases, don't really offer any explanation to the album's troubled past. While its lengthy track list may appear a little too comprehensive for a band that only bothered the charts for three years, Avenging Angels is still a delightfully offbeat set of songs proving that the Brit-pop scene was capable of flourishing outside of its Camden Town beginnings.

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