When the first music video from Spiritualized’s new record was released a few weeks ago its strange subject was always going to raise curiosity and eyebrows. ‘Hey Jane’, basically a meandering – though uplifting – Primal Scream ‘Country Girl’, was the soundtrack for a short film in which a male transvestite stripper runs into trouble when encountering a previously spurned customer, who proceeds to take out his anger on his (or her – delete as appropriate) violently, in a motel; everything turns out fine though when his/her young son unblinkingly and unflinchingly shoots the attacker dead, and then continues to play his little game machine whilst lying next to his stricken parent.
That peculiar mix of the euphoric and the morbid is representative of all eleven songs as creative hub/genius Jason Pierce, famously of stoned space rockers Spacemen 3 from the 80s (they who used to “take drugs to make music to take drugs to”), let’s rip with the seventh studio album of Spiritualized after spending the last year or so either working intensely on the record or in the company of his doctors, as his body falls apart from an excessive rock’n’roll lifestyle.
There are still some remnants of the droney guitar that characterised Pierce’s wild youth on early favourite ‘Headin For The Top Now’ and ‘I Am What I Am’, regardless of how hard he tries to hide them beneath the large raucous string and piano arrangements that propel every number. Unfortunately it is those strings that render the second half of the album a bit plain with little further musical ground being covered, as the uplifting hopeful sentiment they furnish the record with becomes increasingly tiresome.
Nevertheless there are some genuinely tender moments, particularly at the beginning of ‘So Long You Pretty Thing’ where we find Pierce in duet alongside his young daughter, who touchingly enhances his nasal seen-it-all-before croak with her falsetto innocence when they sing something about walking past a scary Jesus. Evidently, religion remains a central component to Pierce’s lyrics, as does drug use and mortality – the blunt opening line “sometimes I wish I was dead” on ‘Little Girl’ – which, considering his daughter’s appearance and the hopeful, buoyant mood that is prevalent, seems to garble the message that the LP is conveying.
The songs demonstrate and showcase Pierce’s ability to create mature thoughtful lamentations, but those talents have been reproduced with greater inspiration on his earlier records, especially on Ladies And Gentlemen… We Are Floating in Space. Sweet Heart… is enjoyable and improves with every listen, thanks mostly to Pierce’s carefully constructed denseness, but perhaps it is one cathartic album too far.
By Barney Horner
Dance Yrself Clean