Is There Love In Space?, by Joe Satriani
Suggested by Nicholas Fitterson
In this album, Joe Satriani asks the timeless question: Is There Love In Space?
I suspect the answer is a resounding “no”. We can file the enquiry with all those other obvious questions that answer themselves: Is there meat in a Fray Bentos Pie? (No.) Do bears sh*t on the Pope? (Erm…) And of course, is there inbreeding in Burnley? (Exclusively.)
According to the website www.howmanypeopleareinspacerightnow.com, there are currently SEVEN people in space. Two women and five men, aboard the International Space Station. The newest arrival has been there for 113 days, the elder statesperson for 145. Living in cramped conditions for four months could see love flourish and blossom, although these people are professionals and they are in a vacuum.
If there’s no love in (the International) space (station), that leaves the only extra-terrestrial love games at play in the hands of, well, extra-terrestrials. And as much as Han loves Leia and ET loves Elliott, these are all fictional aliens. In the entire history of the search for alien life, only two cases discovered actual aliens, and in both the aliens turned out not to be aliens after all. I’m loathe to believe in the existence of space-life, and no amount of redneck-reported anal probes will convince me otherwise.
Another question… Are There Guitar Solos in Space? The answer to that is a definite yes. Elvis, Blur, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Taylor Swift… All have had their time up amongst the stars. And… Are There Guitar Solos on Is There Love In Space? Of course there are. It’s Joe Satriani.
My review of Satriani’s Flying In A Blue Dream labelled it mediocre. I praised the playing, but called out the dated structure and box-ticking genre tropes. Thankfully, Joe has aged well, and 2004’s Is There Love In Space is a bright and accomplished stormer that made me smile the moment it fired up the fresh and funky Gnaahh. The first three tracks are rollickingly good, rock and roll excess through and through, with poise, panache, passion and perfect plectrum precision. While Blue Dream fell foul of presenting as an almost United Nations of Musical Genres, the songs on Love In Space are much more centred and coherent, from the metallic stomper Hands in the Air to the laconic ballad Just Look Up. My standout, If I Could Fly, is a soaring example of the middle-ground pitch of the project, offering us the prime median of all the songs on offer.
Of the eleven tracks, a straight nine of them are instrumental. While I thought I’d find that boring, the peerless and emotive guitar sound were all the vocals I needed. On previous albums, the quality of Satriani’s vocals, when used, has been brought into question, but for the two fine offerings here – Lifestyle and the excellent I Like The Rain – Joe leans into his perceived weakness and delivers performative and distorted vocals that enhance rather than hinder.
My single complaint is that the album ends with a whimper. The penultimate track, Searching, is a ten-minute meandering swirl, and the final song, Bamboo, is just downright odd. But even these scuffs do little to tarnish the gold. I score this album 8/10. There may not be love in space, but there’s love in this house for this damn fine music.