Sweet Heart Sweet Light by Spiritualized
Oh thank God.
It’s good. It’s really, really good.
To be a Spiritualized fan is to have patience, as they are one of those bands with a very rich history and an extremely frustrating discography overall.
Borne from the ashes of space rockers Spacemen 3, Spiritualized came out of the gate with one of the best records of the ‘90’s in Lazer Guided Melodies. The album consists of 4 ‘suites’ made up of songs that alternate between Velvet Underground drones and celestial, Pink Floydian beauty. It is great.
1995’s Pure Phase remains a decent album but relies a little too much on symphonic flourishes to hide the lack of quality songwriting. It isn’t a very satisfying record, and most folks wrote them off at this point.
Then along came a masterpiece. Ladies And Gentlemen…We Are Floating In Space is a MONSTER. Straightforward rockers such as Come Together and Electricity sit very comfortably next to the “voodoo blues trance” of Cop Shoot Cop, which is 17+ minutes of feedback and finesse that reminds me of the Velvet’s Sister Ray a bit. It is a fantastic album. It was the best album of 1997 and Spiritualized has been making, basically, the same album since.
The pretty good Let It Come Down, the so-so Amazing Grace and the distressing but decent Songs In A&E. It’s been 15 years since I’ve been blown away by this band so my hopes were none too high for their newest, Sweet Heart Sweet Light.
I shouldn’t have worried. It’s great, everything I could ask for in a Spiritualized record. Jason Pierce sounds energized again. His particular brand of “Rock and Roll Gospel”, something he’s toyed with his entire career, is almost perfected here. The drug references remain, of course. Jesus and heroin, God and dope, the lyrical cornerstones of any great album! The guitars are back, the orchestra’s been scaled down and, once again, all is good and right in my world. I am loving every single track, although there are some real standouts: opener Hey Jane (of course, naming your album Sweet Heart Sweet Light and your opening track Hey Jane is a pretty obvious reference to who influenced the album, no?) is an 8 plus minute jangly drone rocker with some beautiful harmonies; Little Girl has a Phil Spector Let It Be flavor about it and Get What You Deserve is Magical Mystery Tour updated for 2012. Headin’ For The Top Now is sonic terrorism at it’s poppiest, but could have been trimmed a bit. The rest of the songs, including I am What I Am and closer So Long You Pretty Thing are equally great.
Even those with just a passing knowledge of the band knows that Pierce officially died twice about two years or so ago due to some obscure illness. After he ‘recovered’ (still not quite there yet, apparently) he gave an interview where he said “if I’m gonna put albums out now they better be fuckin’ great!”, which seems to be an admission that his latest efforts prior to this and after Ladies and Gentlemen…were sub par, which they really were. But this one really is “fuckin’ great”, no need to worry about that.
Contender for album of the year. Unless Super Furry Animals or The Flaming Lips surprise us all and release a new one this year, Sweet Heart Sweet Light’s a shoe-in.