Avant-garde pop band
Despite an album title, The Death of Quickspace forecasting their own demise, a charming lack of ambition frequently manifested in press interviews, and an apparent loathing of endorsing even their own products, London’s Quickspace proved themselves the natural heirs to Stereolab as the United Kingdom’s premier avant-garde pop group. Their sound—a mix drawing from Krautrock bands like Can excluding the emotional detachment; psychedelic, trance-rock groups such as Spaceman 3 and Loop; and alternative pop elements—won over many critics. Reviewers such as Everett True in Melody Maker deemed their songs “masterfully polished gems,” while the same magazine’s David Hemingway concluded that given today’s pop/rock landscape, “any band that can make you feel dislocated, transported, removed from the every-day, should be welcomed with open arms,” adding, “Quick-space are to be cherished.”
Regardless of such praises, the group’s perfectionist leader and founder, guitarist/vocalist Tom Cullinan, remained critical about Quickspace’s four self-produced albums. He often complains about the recording quality of the group’s material, suggesting that many songs and even whole album sides need remixing, and attributes the band’s quivering vocal style to a lack of practice and an inability to sing in tune. Nonetheless, as Eric Wittmershaus of Flak magazine suggested, “it doesn’t matter that neither Cullinan nor primary vocalist Nina Pascale can sing all that well; they just sound so…sweet.”
Moreover, the work habits of his fellow bandmates—guitarist/vocalist Nina Pascale, keyboardist Paul Shilton, drummer Steve d’Enton, and bassist Sean Newsham—also bother Cullinan. Indeed, he named the group’s 2000 release The Death of Quickspace as both a joke and a subtle threat intended to motivate the others to show up for rehearsals and recording sessions. “The band can be really lazy sometimes,” Cullinan said in all sincerity to Matthew Fritch in a Magnet interview, “and it’s kind of infuriating for me. Because I’m trying to get this album together and make it as good as possible. You’d be amazed how people tend to be happy to let things go and not put their all into something.” His misgivings, however, were dimmed by the positive response to The Death of Quickspace, regarded as the band’s most cohesive outing. Rather than falling apart, Quickspace instead appeared to show new signs of life. “As a band,” added Pascale, “we seem to be all together now.”
The history of Quickspace dates back to 1994 with the dissolution of the much-lauded post-punk group Th’ Faith Healers, with whom Cullinan served as guitarist and songwriter. Later that year, Quickspace Super-sport, a short-lived version of the current group, emerged, featuring Cullinan, guitarist/vocalist Wendy Harper, keyboardist Barry Stilwell, Rollerskate Skinny drummer Max Corradi, and an inexperienced bassist named Sean Newsham, ironically the only holdover from the Supersport lineup. During the six months spent scraping together enough money to press a single, Cullinan and Newsham formed the Kitty Kitty Corporation, intended to become equal parts record label, recording studio, music distributor, festival organizer, literary magazine, and art conglomerate, though only the musical aspects of the organization have been ironed out thus far. Ideally, Cullinan and Newsham wanted the group to remain as self-sufficient as possible.
In 1995, after the release of a song recorded by Cullinan in 1994 as a mere demo entitled “Happy Song #1,” the first record issued on Kitty Kitty, Quickspace Supersport arrived with their first proper single, “Found a Way,” on the Love Train label. Later that year, they released on Domino the Superplus EP, which made the Indie Top 40 in the United Kingdom. But just as the group was starting to make some headway, the whole band, save Newsham, suddenly quit just days before a gig opening for the Grifters. Cullinan and Newsham, however, decided to keep the band going, dropping the “Supersport” part of the name and recruiting Pascale, whose résumé only listed minimal guitar playing and singing along to the radio, Shilton, and a drummer named Chin.
The first single recorded by the new lineup, “Friend,” was released on Kitty Kitty in early 1996, followed by the band’s self-titled debut album, issued by their own label in Britain and by Slash/London in the United States. The tone of Quickspace 3—upbeat drones that shifted to distorted guitar climaxes—prompted several
Members include Chin (left in 1998), drums; Tom Cullinan (former songwriter/guitarist for Th’ Faith Healers), guitar, vocals, producer; Steve d’Enton (joined in 1998), drums; Sean Newsham , bass; Nina Pascale, guitar, vocals; Paul Shilton, keyboards.
Cullinan formed Quickspace Supersport, 1994; Cullinan and Newsham formed Kitty Kitty Corporation, all members quit except Cullinan and Newsham, changed name to Quickspace and enlisted new members, 1995; released self-titled debut album, 1996; released Precious Falling, 1998; released The Death of Quickspace, toured North America for first time, 2000.
Addresses: Record company —Matador Records, 625 Broadway, 12th Floor, New York City, NY 10012, phone: (212) 995-5882, fax: (212) 995-5883, website:http://www.matador.recs.com; The Kitty Kitty Corporation, P.O. Box 3901, London NW1 9BZ, U.K., e-mail: Nina Pascale, [email protected]
critics to cite the group’s resemblance to the German rock group Can. While Cullinan admits to Can’s influence, he believes that Quickspace has distanced themselves from the Krautrock formula over the years. “In the beginning,” he said to Fritch, “I could see how [the Krautrock comparisons] were justified, but I saw no reason for it to go on for four years.”
Meanwhile, Quickspace declined numerous offers from other record labels, opting for a lower profile and authority over their material. In the spring of 1997, they released Supo Spot, a collection of early singles and rarities, followed later that year by The Precious Mountain EP. A new single, “Hadid,” appeared in May of 1998. Around the same time, Chin, who signed on as a temporary member, left the band and was replaced by d’Enton on drums. June of that year saw the release of another single, “Quickspace Happy Song #2,” along with the Precious Little EP, which contained songs from both of that year’s seven-inch singles.
On August 31, 1998, Quickspace released their second album, Precious Falling, recorded in late 1997 and early 1998 with Chin still on drums and featuring the spikey pop classics “Happy Song #2” and “Hadid” and the instrumental “Coca-Lola.” “Precious Falling breaks a lot of rules,” wrote Wittmershaus. “It’s filled with moments of intense, ear-splitting noise, but it’s devoid of testosterone. It’s a shambles but extremely well put together. At times it charms the pants off of you with shoe-staring, hands-in-your-pockets coyness; at others, it tries to tear your head clean off with a blast of sneering feedback. At other moments, it intermingles the two elements to create upbeat, noise-filled pop tunes the mainstream music-buying public isn’t used to hearing.”
In support of the effort, Quickspace toured all of Europe, except Austria, including a gig supporting Yo La Tengo in London and United Kingdom performances with labelmates Novak and Ligament. In late 1999, Quickspace signed with Matador Records as their American distributor. Their third album, The Death of Quickspace, was released in March of 2000. Again, the three-week-long recording sessions took place in a barn in the wilds of Staffordshire, England, a residence the band first used for the making of Precious Falling.“It’s dangerous, because it takes away what you are, which is urban,” Cullinan, also the group’ main producer, told Fritch. “Sometimes, you get a bit mellow. Our albums probably have a bit more mellow content than they would have if we did them in the city.”
The Death of Quickspace, full of subtle and seductive melodies, revealed a band in full form. Some of the LP’s standouts include the abrasive opener “The Lob-balong Song,” also released previously as a single, the dark, slow-building “They Shoot Horse Don’t They,” the guitar screamer “Munchers No Munchers,” and the psychedelic electric slide guitar ballad “The Rose.” According to Ryan Schreiber of Pitchfork, “their songs are inescapably catchy without resorting on cloying twee pop tendencies, conventional pop structures, or even hooks at all. Yes, this is pop music, but not at all in the traditional sense.” Following the release of The Death of Quickspace, the group embarked on their first tour of North America, including performances with Yo La Tengo in the Midwest.
Quickspace (United Kingdom) Kitty Kitty, Slash/London, 1996.
Supo Spot (singles and rarities compilation), (United Kingdom) Kitty Kitty, 1997.
Precious Falling (United Kingdom) Kitty Kitty, 1998; Hidden Agenda/Parasol, 1999.
The Death of Quickspace (United Kingdom) Kitty Kitty, Matador, 2000.
Billboard, April 8, 2000.
Magnet, June/July 2000, pp. 63-65.
Melody Maker, November 29, 1997; July 4, 1998; August 8, 1998; September 5, 1998.
Rolling Stone, April 27, 2000; June 8, 2000.
Flak, http://www.flakmag.com (August 24, 2000).
Konketsu, http://www.konketsu.com (August 24, 2000).
Matador Records, http://www.matador.recs.com (August 24, 2000).
Pitchfork, http://www.pitchforkmedia.com (August 24, 2000).
Quickspace (unofficial website), http://www.mailbox.univie.ac.at/prillihS/healers/quickspace.html (August 24, 2000).
Sonicnet, http://www.sonicnet.com (August 24, 2000).
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