Interstellar Overdrive: Bright Light Social Hour’s Space is Still the Place is an Emotional Journey

by Carter Delloro

Bright Light Social Hour Space is Still the Place

“Listen to Tommy with a candle burning and you’ll see your entire future.” – Anita Miller (Zooey Deschanel), Almost Famous

It’s been a tumultuous few years ever since the Bright Light Social Hour took over Austin in 2010-2011 on the back of their very strong self-titled debut. They have been through breakups both personal and professional, as well as the death of their manager, Alex O’Brien. They have opened for Aerosmith and Dave Matthews Band, and they played ACL opposite Kendrick Lamar. There have been many highs and many lows in the last five years, and BLSH’s sophomore album, Space is Still the Place, reflects that emotional journey.

Look no further than the album cover to know that this has been a topsy-turvy time for the group. The Grand Canyon floats atop the frame like a UFO about to crush the sky. Over the course of the album’s 45 minutes, the Bright Light Social Hour provide an appropriate soundtrack to such bizarre imagery. They turn heavily toward psychedelia, filtering their classic rock influences from their first album through a lens of Black Angels and Tame Impala. Guitars are reverberated, voices phased. There is a darkness to Space that was only hinted at in the debut.

But the emotional turmoil isn’t just evident in the album’s cohesive tone. The danceable “Dreamlove” is powered in its entirety by a pulsing, relentless electronic beat. As the song builds and twists, the pulse never dissipates. Yet as the song winds down, the pulse trips. It frays, split at the seam, suddenly out of sync. It leaves you unsteady, uncertain about the final destination of the former forward momentum.


The creeping “Ouroboros” is another song that spends most of its four and a half minutes creating an unbeatable groove. It slinks forward through the darkness with a confidence that feels at odds with its tone. The track is one of the true highlights of the album – a perfect showcase for Curtis Roush’s soaring guitar solos (like a psych-Jack White) and Jack O’Brien’s sticky, nimble bass lines. Yet, with 40 seconds to go, the group devolves into sonic chaos, hammering away at their instruments with little rhyme or reason, the song culminating with a thrash before quickly disappearing into silence.

On the chorus of “Infinite Cities,” Roush howls forlornly like a dog that’s lost its master, before sounding fragile in a phrase that ends in his falsetto. The vocals on “Ghost Dance” are so disfigured that they’re impossible to make out before relenting to a chorus that may be the angriest sound the group has laid to tape. Rollicking opener “Sweet Madelene” turns about ⅗ through from a “Black Betty”-style Southern blues into a trippy, floating jam, its unsteadiness portending the things to come, perfectly illustrating BLSH’s turn from the blues rock of their debut to the psych-rock they explore on Space.


The result is a record that fits perfectly into the Almost Famous milieu. This may as well have been the record that a young Zooey Deschanel leaves for her younger brother to help him unlock the secrets of the universe. It’s an album The Who would have been proud of. And yet, I don’t see this record revealing anyone’s future. If anything, it’s an album that revels in the sounds of the past – the blues, classic rock, spacey psychedelia – to confront the challenges of the present. Those sounds are comforting. They’re familiar. But the Bright Light Social Hour pour all of the sadness, hope, uncertainty and passion of the last five years into every second, wringing something vital and alive from genres that we may have thought exhausted. And instead of revealing the future, it only promises a future filled with just as much uncertainty as before.