I have no problem admitting that I was a late bloomer in terms of my infatuation with Spiritualized. For some reason, it took the release of the Royal Albert Hall live double disc for me to finally grasp the vast beauty of J Spaceman’s work. Spiritualized epic masterpieces finally triggered something in my brain as I absorbed the chemical splendor of tracks such as “Medication,” “Broken Heart” and “Electric Mainline.” From that point, I began to devour his entire back catalog, obsessing over Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space, Pure Phase, etc.
J Spaceman’s (Jason Pierce) work in Spiritualized began in 1990, colliding genres ranging from shoegaze to gospel into his own aural medication that has kept me itching for more. His latest comes in a bottle labeled Songs In A&E, giving us more sprawling rock songs, complete with choirs, orchestral arrangements and everything else you’d expect from a Spiritualized release. In fact, this is a return to form, making it quite possibly the best to come from them in a solid decade.
Although we know that a good solid half of the album was completed before Pierce’s brush with death due to a nasty case of pneumonia, you can’t help but feel that it did have some level of influence on the record. With the angelic chorus that begins “Sweet Talk,” his take on American music influences shines like a gospel hymn. This contrasts perfectly with the chilling “Death Take Your Fiddle,” which features the sound of a patient on a respirator as he sings “I think I’ll drink myself into a coma, I’ll take every pill I can find.”
The single “Soul On Fire” pulls us away from getting too close to the light, offering up a full-blown classic Spiritualized track. The chorus is back, offering uplifting melodies that perfectly balance the fragile vocals of Pierce. The strings and fuzzed out guitars add to the power of this brilliant moment on Songs In A&E, slowing building to a stunning climax that marks one of Spiritualized’s finer moments.
“Baby I’m Just A Fool” looks back to past songs from Pierce’s career, bringing back the sound of droaning synths colliding with a brassy horn section as the track trucks along for a solid seven minutes. Another brilliant moment comes with the favorite “Borrowed Your Gun,” again growing to a spine-chilling conclusion as strings and horns join in harmony as Pierce joins the choir in singing “Hold out your hands, I’m coming home / Hold out your arms, I’m all alone / My mind is made up, I’m down on my luck, I’ve run out of bullets again.”
From his days in Spacemen 3 to the continuation of Spiritualized, Jason Pierce has steadily given us the perfect music for those moments of expanding our horizons – however you personally take care of that particular task is entirely up to you. Whether it is looking deep inside yourself for some personal introspective, or gazing at the clouds pondering the whole “meaning of life” thing, he has the perfect musical soundtrack to accompany that particular state of mind. His material is deep and layered, but attentive listens always pay off when listening to Spiritualized.