Space Apaches – Smokin’ Voyages

Space Apaches - Smokin Voyages

Now here’s a bait-and-switch if ever I’ve heard one. A band name like Space Apaches, paired up with the cosmic album cover comes with certain implications in a post-Hawkwind world. It shouldn’t be surprising to most that I was completely expecting something ripped straight from the space rock canon with Space Apaches. I think this is an impression the band themselves were conscious of as they open their album with a cosmic soundscape, complete with the setting of a starship’s landing gear. It sounds like we’re in for an hour-odd cosmic trip. Space suits and LSD blotters at the ready.

What I got, instead, was much different from that expectation, although not necessarily better or worse. Space Apaches‘ electronic press kit self-describe the band as “a psychedelic Eagles with a sense of humour”. I’m not sure I could have pegged the band any better than that. The spacey psychedelia inferred by their name and overly kitschy visual aesthetic is certainly here, but it comes secondary to a lot of other things, hard rock and blues ranking chief among them. Hell– if I didn’t hate the term with a fiery passion, I might even risk calling Smokin’ Voyages a ‘classic rock’ album. If anything rings most true with Space Apaches as a modern classic rock band, it’s certainly the fact that they’ve apparently been influenced entirely by bands from the late 60s through to the 70s. A crisp modern production notwithstanding, it’s as if the past few decades didn’t happen for Space Apaches. Depending on where you’re personally coming from as a listener, that might be a good thing, or a reason to dismiss the band right off the block.

Space Apaches

Space Apaches are consistently wonderful musicians throughout this debut album, as their preceding careers as successful sessioneers would go to suggest. Smokin’ Voyages is an expertly played and produced hour of vintage rock. While that vintage rock sadly never congeals into a style the band can rightly call their own, there are a few songs here that manage to stand out. “Sunrise” erupts as a surprising burst of tight and bluesy hard rock following the cosmic bait-and-switch “Entry”. “In My Mind” and “Desert Life” have a strong arid, southern sound to them I find plenty endearing. Although it was never picked out as a single “Maybe” sounds like the most accessible and instantly hookworthy piece in the band’s nascent catalogue, drawing close Tom Petty comparisons. Space Apaches‘ 14 song debut may have bit off more than it could properly chew; there’s nothing here that sinks to true weakness nor rises to excellence, but I think they may have had an easier time creating a substantial feeling of flow if they had trimmed the album down a bit. As it stands, Smokin’ Voyages is occasionally great but often unfocused. There’s obvious potential in the band’s enthusiastic performance and grasp of style, but in reviving the classic 70s tropes without actually refreshing them, it’d be a hard argument to say they can hold the attention for as long as they mean to.

Classic rock still gets its listeners because the sound is, well, classic. A good riff never gets old, and a truly great song never wears thin. But what distinguishes Space Apaches from those classic bands that influenced them is the fact that those 70s legends earned their long-lasting appeal. Whether it was for their individual character or simply representing the spirit of their age better than anyone else, bands like those that echo throughout Smokin’ Voyages wouldn’t have been so fondly remembered if they had stuck to the relative oldies of their respective generation. This isn’t a condemnation of Space Apaches. Rather, what they’ve done here is perfectly enjoyable as a tribute to the music they love. If I show any disappointment that their debut doesn’t amount to anything more, it’s because of the razor-sharp musicianship they’ve placed on display here. Should Space Apaches ever set their sights higher than imitation, great things may await them as artists, and we as listeners.

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