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Songs in A & E by Spiritualized (Universal)

Jason Spaceman’s first album for five years is well-served with its standard mix of love songs, druggy songs and religious songs (sometimes morphing multivalently into all three at once), but this time out adds a few death songs for good measure. Perhaps not so surprising, as Pierce was hospitalised with double pneumonia between the writing and recording of the collection, and it was touch and go for awhile. Near death experiences do focus the mind wonderfully, but you can take the title thus yielded literally as weighty declaration, or as just a brilliant pun.
The good news is that this is the best Spiritualized outing in yonks, up there with 1997’s Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space and 1992’s debut Laser Guided Melodies. While still dependent on the pleasingly weird juxtaposition of simple structures with lush arrangements, this time around Pierce has reigned in his more extravagant layerings. It’s no easy feat to produce rock music that is simultaneously orchestral and minimalist, but the Spaceman pulls it off superbly here. Still, for all the mind-altering sonic adventurism, this writer has always thought of Mr. Spiritualized as fundamentally a blues, or even a country, singer – a view thoroughly vindicated by ‘Death Take Your Fiddle’’s nods to the traditional ‘O, Death’ and Reverend Gary Davies’ ‘Death Don’t Have No Mercy’, giving us something paradoxically hedonistic yet utterly spiritual. Suffice it to say that were I not obliged to listen to other new releases occasionally, this would be stuck on repeat play in my machine.

First published in Magill, September/October 2008

















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