Release Date: Apr 17, 2012
Record label: Fat Possum
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Dream Pop
An Open Letter Regarding Sweet Heart, Sweet Light I’ve attempted two reviews now — one an indulgent failure, and one a pseudo-poetic critique. But both fell short of saying what I wanted to say all along, so now I’m approaching this work slightly outside of criticism. (The best critical responses have already been written elsewhere, and any attempt at mimicry, or worse, one-upmanship, would result in a bland repetition of the same.) First, I want to address Lucy Cage’s powerful response to Sweet Heart Sweet Light, in which she takes exception to the video for “Hey Jane”: Although I’m put off by her tone, I take her criticism seriously.
As spectacularly as any modern band, Spiritualized resolve the rift between Sixties psychedelia and Seventies punk backlash, with focused melodies and pummeled grooves that spin into rainbow hued infinity. See "Headin' forthe Top Now," a cosmic grinder from their seventh LP, which splits the difference between"Helter Skelter" and "Tomorrow Never Knows." Jason Pierce (a.k.a. Jason Spaceman) has his usual giant rock orchestra representing.
Since the release of Spiritualized's last album, 2008's Songs in A&E, band leader Jason Pierce went on a nostalgic detour. The frontman has always weaved rock'n'roll history into his tunes, but this was different. The last few years saw Pierce reissuing his defining 1997 monument Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space as a boxed set and playing the grandiose album in full at a handful of memorable shows.
Pain makes you beautiful. I first became aware of that phrase when the Judybats used it as the title to their 1993 album, however, the more I think about it, no other phrase seems to capture the art of Spiritualized‘s Jason Pierce so succinctly. It would be awfully curmudgeonly not to find a little beauty in the music of Spritualized – dense 100+ member orchestras, celestial arrangements, lush vocal chorales.
The nearly nine-minute "Hey Jane," the first single from Sweet Heart Sweet Light, is the sort of brash maximalist pop you'd expect from Jason Pierce and Spiritualized by now. It's parts are simple, but their combination is dizzying: guitars jangle, organ drones, Pierce's voice and cracks and croons, female vocalists wail away in the background. Halfway through, it breaks down into a squall of noise that, because Pierce recorded it, we are required to call narcotic, and then the song reemerges as a churning rock epic full of gliding riffs and layered vocals.
SpiritualizedSweet Heart Sweet Light[Double Six / Fat Possum; 2012]By Rob Hakimian; April 2, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetSpiritualized 'Hey Jane' by SpiritualizedSpiritualized’s last album, 2008’s Songs in A&E, came with the story of lead singer Jason Pierce’s near-death experience from serious illness. Listening to the album knowing this, it’s almost as though we’re inside his mind as he lays unconscious on his hospital bed, moving through a series of beautifully and terrifyingly vivid dreams that shift from ecstatic pleasure to frail and death-obsessed. The one-minute ambient introductory track to Sweet Heart Sweet Light, “Huh?,” finds like Pierce waking up from those dreams and realizing that he’s alive and well.
His Royal Spaceness was quoted on the process of making Sweet Heart Sweet Light as saying, “When you make a record, it has to be the single most important thing in your world.” And as the album concludes with another eight minutes of epic majesty, titled “So Long You Pretty Thing,” which soars with redemption, freedom, love, loss, sadness and hope, it’s easy to remember why Spiritualized, indeed music itself, matters so much to our lives. .
This may seem like stating the obvious, but Jason Pierce has unquestionably become a teacher of the word of faith. For many of us, it takes a near death experience to see things in a different light, and Pierce’s case isn’t any different – for over the last decade, the drone-rock godfather has gone through a series of health complications that have threatened his career and his life. It hasn’t gotten any easier – he was first hospitalized for five years for suffering a double pneumonia and just recently revealed that he now has a long-term liver disease.
Accounts of Spiritualized bandleader Jason Pierce often read like Saturday Night Live‘s “Who’s More Grizzled?” sketch, in which contestants compete in categories of “War”, “Hard Times”, “Bear Attacks”, “Ailments”, “Dead Wives”, and “Coal Mining”. While to my knowledge Pierce has never seen combat or come face to face with a bear, his reviewers and interviewers routinely rattle off an assortment of hard times, such as drug addiction, breakups, and pneumonia. These difficulties and dark phases are part of the Spacemen 3/Spiritualized story, but there’s no good reason for Pierce’s music to be understood solely as a catalogue of hard knocks.
That Spiritualized's seventh album was made under difficult circumstances – Jason Pierce was housebound and trialling new drugs for long-term liver disease throughout the recording – doesn't mean the music suffers. After all, most Spiritualized albums were made under trying conditions – crippling heartbreak (Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space) and close calls with the grim reaper (Songs in A&E) to name two. Fans are on familiar ground here, and the band do flirt with self-parody at times: Life Is a Problem starts with "Jesus won't you be my radio," whereas the following track asks for help from – that guy again! – Jesus.
Jason Pierce has said that Sweet Heart Sweet Light is his attempt to make a pop album from a grown-up standpoint. It might seem odd that a guy who's spent the last 30 years making explicitly drug-inspired music is now contemplating rock 'n' roll maturity, but, then, recent serious health issues may have given him some perspective on mortality and aging. Sweet Heart Sweet Light feels like a sober reflection on a life spent chasing glimpses of heaven in powders and potions.
"Hey Jane" opens Sweet Heart Sweet Light, Spiritualized's seventh full-length album and the first since 2008's Songs in A&E. Nodding slyly to The Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane," the song finds frontman Jason Pierce wondering, like a mantra, "Hey Jane, when you gonna die?"—one of numerous allusions to mortality throughout Sweet Heart Sweet Light. It's a superb song that finds Pierce in miniature mode.
Rather than ‘putting out records’, space-rock’s grand architect Jason Pierce constructs musical monuments; intricately carved monoliths cast from gospel, soul and blues and erected like orchestral Acropolises for the dedicated rock tourist to gawp at. Their basic design might alter slightly with each new construction – a bit more punk for 2003’s ‘Amazing Grace’, a bit more fragile and haunted for 2008’s ‘Songs In A&E’ – but ever since he buried the lazer-guided electronics beneath flutes, flugelhorns and Philharmonics on 2001’s ‘Let It Come Down’, the materials have remained familiar. The heartbreaking spiritual.
Considering how literally revitalized Jason Pierce sounded on Songs in A & E and that he wrote much of Sweet Heart, Sweet Light on tour performing Ladies and Gentlemen. . .
I hate flutes. They're for hippies and pansies and Morris Dancers, right? And they remind me, to the point of a cold shudder, of ill advised early teenage excursions into acid jazz. If a band can use flutes and me still be into it then that's either a minor miracle or a sign of a faultless ear for near-perfect musical arrangement. In the case of the excellent Delgados' Peloton, where the flute is used very heavily, it is both of these things.
Jason Pierce has always been a prodigious sampler. On the title track from Spiritualized’s breakout album Ladies and Gentlemen We’re Floating in Space, Pierce riffed on an Elvis line and, like all great artists do, transformed the source material, turning an old ode to young, fated love into a euphoric waltz about heartbreak and getting stoned. Over the course of the band’s 20-year existence, Spiritualized has done this time and again, drawing on a deep archive of (mostly) American musical forms, from roots music to rock n’ roll.
Long-time Spiritualized users will be familiar with the band's repeat prescription. Most of their works will feature some gospel choir and a little string section; the packaging might look a little medical. At one point or another, Rugby-born, east London-dwelling Jason Pierce – to all extents and purposes Spiritualized – will invoke Jesus in a way that references gospel music.
Things haven't gotten better for Spiritualized's Jason Pierce. Sweet Heart Sweet Light proves they've only gotten worse. Diagnosed with a liver disease that debilitated him throughout the recording of Spiritualized's seventh LP, the embattled frontman paints a sprawling, majestic, troubled blur of a songwriter on the edge. "Sometimes I wish that I was dead," he sings on "Little Girl," "'cause only living can feel the pain." With a pop-ready string section and Southern gospel choir, it's the most optimistic melody on SHSL, one last sliver of hope before the drug-induced abyss of "Get What You Deserve" swallows Pierce's ever-tortured psyche.
Few artists have the right to moan about struggling to finish an album the way Jason Pierce does. In 2008, he released Songs in A&E, an album completed while he was recovering from a life-threatening bout of Periorbital cellulitis with bilateral pneumonia. If that wasn't enough, he was diagnosed with degenerative liver disease during the making of Spiritualized's seventh studio album, Sweet Heart Sweet Light (originally titled Huh?), for which he had to undergo chemotherapy and take experimental drugs.
This is a "traditional" Spiritualized album down to its marrow, and a great one. Chris Lo 2012 Over the course of 25 years of making music with Spacemen 3 and later Spiritualized, Jason Pierce (aka J. Spaceman) has set a sonic template from which he’s never really deviated. Spiritualized albums somehow seem to stand apart from the pop landscape, clad in stone.
SPIRITUALIZED“Sweet Heart, Sweet Light”(Fat Possum) There’s so much uncertainty in rock right now. It’s turned into lightweight, flexible material; it’s almost apologizing for itself. It’s mostly become a question, or a proposal. It’s renting space. It can seem as if it might go away ….
Spiritualized are a band that polarise opinion like few others: depending on the ear of the beholder, they produce either music of quasi-mystical and transcendent beauty – a perennially strung out nirvana of rising epiphany - or a tiresome dirge of incalculable dullness, inflected with Jason Pierce's rampant lyrical egoism. I'm yet to meet anyone who considers them merely 'alright'. Their legend rests largely on one good album, and various rousing live shows that have followed it down the years.