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Eight minutes of godness

May 18, 2012

I’ve had a thing for long rock songs since I was a kid: the best stuff off Physical Graffiti, early Yes, The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” the title track from Steely Dan’s Aja, any pre-Abacab Genesis.

It took me a little longer to appreciate the pithy punkness of people like the Ramones or the Minutemen. Still, something about the rock epic activates that chemical reaction in my brain known as nostalgia, taking me back to my prog rock nerd days in junior high. Yes, sometimes size does matter.

Spiritualized’s 1992 EP Medication

Such was the case recently when I checked out a link pal Danny Jones posted on Facebook. It was a song by the English space rock band Spiritualized, specifically the title track from their 1992 Medication EP (There’s a slightly different version off the LP Pure Phase, which came out a few years later.) I’ve heard bits of the band, but somehow I’d mostly missed them over the years – in the case of the song in question, “Medication,” almost twenty to be exact.

Dan’s message was simple: “Amazing song.” I clicked on his link, which took me to one of these homemade YouTube videos and gave it a listen. And when it was done, I listened to it again. And again. And again. It was one of those moments when you stumble across a piece of music that makes you feel like the skies have been ripped open and the universe is pouring something real down into your ears. This song is not American Idol. This is eight minutes of godness. You’d be wise to listen.

The organ that opens “Medication” gives it an almost church-like feel, not some great cathedral, mind you, but some cheesy roadside church in the Florida panhandle. The shimmering guitars enter, then for a brief spell the song breaks down as the horns play dissonant free jazz solos over waltz time – the narrator’s mental collapse perhaps? Then we get another dose of the organ intro, as the song seems to begin all over again.

Appropriately, this is one mood-altering, addictive piece of music. The lyrics chronicle a state of mind many know only too well: the need for some kind of fix, prescribed or otherwise, paired with a deep desire to one day be able to bid it goodbye: “I’m waiting for a time / when I can be without / these things that make me feel / this way all of the time.”

“Medication” has moments of the shoegazer greatness that was (is?) My Bloody Valentine. At other times, you can hear flute buried in the mix that’s reminiscent of early Mercury Rev.

Five minutes in, the whole epic almost comes to a complete standstill, as most songs would, and really it would still be a great song if it ended there. But with one massive flam on the snare and a few kicks to the bass drum, Spiritualized slowly dig their way towards a big rock ending, with layers of guitars, harmonica, horns, etc., piled on for full effect. When it’s done, the song clocks in at eight-plus minutes.

A lesser band would’ve been satisfied with the five minutes, but those last three minutes of slow burn are what really make “Medication” so addictive. The only question I have now is how I lived without it these last twenty years. (Thanks to Captain Dan for getting me hooked.)

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From → Recordings

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