“That song is about getting stoned and drunk.”
– Space Queen’s Karli, on “Drop The Walls”
Oh Karli, I know.
Space Queen’s debut EP dropped May 29th, and that’s when I should have been listening to it. It’s been a weird year for a lot of reasons, and on top of everything else Vancouver has been experiencing freak weather patterns. July is cloudy and humid and doesn’t feel like summer, June was similar. It sucks out there. Our best, sunniest days were in April and May for some reason, right at the apex of our COVID scare. Days where we were all stuck inside and mostly scared, stoned and drunk, paying the bills with CERB checques while springtime bloomed quietly in the background. Caught by surprise, none of us got to enjoy our early retirements. Those long, warm days could have been so much fun, had fun been an option.
Vancouver’s Space Queen couldn’t have written their Space Queen about the Coronavirus times, the timeline doesn’t match up. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. Dropping right at the tail of Vancouver’s early summer, Space Queen is a blast of sunlight: 17 easy minutes of stoner-rock and fuzzed-out bliss that evoke the summertime we all managed to miss by staying inside. It’s a transmission from another May on a different planet, one where we didn’t spend the last three months inside “getting stoned and drunk,” like Karli said. Or maybe just getting stoned and drunk for better reasons. Fun reasons.
I should have been listening to this thing a month ago.
Space Queen is made up of three songs, each of which could have been three minutes long if we were going by hooks. Instead they sprawl out over a quarter-hour, each song settling itself into a groove before lifting off into space, wandering in and out of solos, features and movements. This happens on all three tracks – desert-rock giving way to hovering vocal harmonies (“DBA”), fuzzy sludge-light breakdown (“Why Can’t I Move”) and the five places “Drop The Walls” goes once it takes flight. Every track tails out for half its run-time, exploring and expanding. It’s exhilarating.
Let’s talk about “Drop The Walls”, because it’s everything this band does right. It opens on an acoustic solo, then the blues guitar feature kicks in – for a moment I thought we were getting Space Queen’s “When The Levee Breaks”. Instead Jenna cuts in with the blues vocals, chilling the track out into a smooth, expansive jam. The three vocalists come together for the chorus, splitting into the triple-harmony that’s becoming their trademark. Two and a half minutes in, hanging on an organ key from Seah, the curtain drops and suddenly we’re in a stoner groove. It’s the heaviest moment on the album and moments later they pivot away again, drifting into a call-and-response guitar solo. It’s everything I love about Space Queen: they fuse stoner and blues styles together into a dizzying style entirely their own. It’s rad.
Space Queen’s joy is obvious in every note – they’ve hooked into something as a trio and they know it. This is most apparent on “Drop the Walls”, but it’s everywhere else too: listen to the way Space Queen’s three singers fan out on “DBA”, Karli’s fills on the drum parts. All three vocalists team up to split “Why Can’t I Move” in two before it breaks down, floating in thin-air in the mix. Speaking of the mix, Space Queen sounds fantastic, muted just enough in its sonic palette to resemble its 70’s stoner influences while the vocals cut through the fog. This is music for a humid, hot summer day – the kind Vancouver might get again if we’re lucky enough.
Shame on me for not checking out Space Queen back when it came out. Every moment is filled with warmth and light, alive with the passion these three have for their craft. Every track eventually achieves lift-off, drifting up and shifting genres before floating away on the summer breeze. Space Queen is just getting started, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Grab yourself a beer and then go stream the album or better yet buy it – Space Queen donate their share of sales to charity because they have hearts of gold.
Now let’s work on getting that summer back, hey.
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