SPIRITUALIZED – Songs In A&E (Sanctuary)
It has been quite a while since the last Spiritualized album, but for once Jason Pierce has a good excuse. Confined to intensive care in 2005 with a life-threatening illness, he was lucky to come out in one piece, but he has used the experience to inspire yet another of his exceptional albums. ‘Songs In A&E’ is obviously going to be full of imagery to do with death and resurrection, but it doesn’t overpower the songs as many of them were already written before his hospital experience. So ‘Sweet Talk’ could come straight off ‘Amazing Grace’, with its fragile melody and heavenly chorus, while ‘Death Take Your Fiddle’ and ‘I Gotta Fire’ are undoubtedly based on his time in the ICU. ‘Soul On Fire’ is one of Pierce’s glorious love songs, where a downbeat verse is followed by an uplifting chorus, and whereas on his last couple of albums he might have swamped it with Gospel singers and strings, here it is stripped down to the bare minimum, and is all the more affecting for that. In a similar vein is ‘Sitting On Fire’, with Pierce’s voice cracking with emotion on the verses, before a beautifully understated string section comes in to draw the song to a close. ‘You Lie You Cheat’ is a distorted blues attacking someone responsible for a real or imagined slight, and ‘Baby I’m Just A Fool’ is the sort of song that seems to flow so effortlessly from the Spaceman’s pen – a tuneful verse followed by a singalong chorus, and the whole thing wrapped up in some soaring strings which build to an orgasmic crescendo. ‘Don’t Hold Me Close’ is as basic as Spiritualized ever get, with the band backing this deceptively simple little song pretty much acoustically, and ‘The Waves Crash In’ has a rolling feel which emphases the nautical bent of the lyric. ‘Borrowed Your Gun’ has the most obscure lyric on the album, but the music has no such problem, with the choir-led chorus building to a sumptuous finale, and ‘Goodnight Goodnight’ closes the album with a gentle lullaby. Interspersed between the songs are a number of short instrumental pieces, named ‘Harmony 1’ to ‘Harmony 5’, which are dedicated to Harmony Korine, for whom Pierce scored ‘Mister Lonely’ in 2007. So, another triumph for Jason Pierce, making it four classic albums in a row, from the person I would least have expected it from when listening to those early Spaceman 3 albums. Suffice to say that if you have enjoyed the band’s work so far then you should hear this album immediately, and if you are new to the band then there is no better way to be introduced.