Spiritualized : The Complete Works (Volume One)

Jason Pierce's aims haven't altered in over a decade

When Spacemen 3 finally crashed to earth in 1991 after nine years of revolutionary psychedelic fervour, no one could have confidently predicted that Jason Pierce was going to be the one to emerge triumphantly from the wreckage.

As far as many were concerned, it was his creative partner Pete Kember (aka Sonic Boom) who was the pivotal force in the group. It was Kember, after all, who’d written the group’s most famous song the relentless, two-chord, fuzzslide of ‘Revolution’. This was a view apparently reinforced when Pierce’s first foray into the studio as Spiritualized yielded a cover of The Troggs’ rudimentary ’60s garage rocker ‘Anyway That You Want Me’.

Actually, though, this sweeping, symphonic reinterpretation of a minor classic contained all the clues to Pierce’s future development. Ambitious, semi-orchestral and backed with the opiated drones of a two-part suite (‘Step Into The Breeze Parts 1 and 2’), it revealed a man who released from the acrimonious confines of the Spacemen was about to enter an orbit of his own.

This album (a comprehensive two CD compilation of singles, BBC radio sessions and rarities) charts the progress of the band up to 1995’s ‘Pure Phase’, and what quickly becomes apparent is that Pierce’s aims haven’t altered in over a decade. All the elements which coalesced so magnificently on 1997’s ‘Ladies And Gentlemen…’ album had been explored long in advance.

Hence, the Velvet Underground-inspired groove of ‘Run’ and the tentative free-jazz experiments of ‘Smile’ rub alongside the ebbing melodrama of ‘Feel So Sad’ (included here in four different versions, Pierce’s obsession with re-interpretation is almost pathological) and the neo-krautrock of ‘Electric Mainline’. Pierce’s desire to compress the history of rock’n’roll into the space of just one song rather than one album shines through constantly.

After the slight cul-de-sac of 2001’s ‘Let It Come Down’, the appearance of this album should be seen as a timely reminder of just what drew people to Spiritualized in the first place. There’s a raw electricity here that, rumour suggests, will be mirrored in their next proper offering later this year. If so, that means 2003 will see two brilliant offerings from Pierce rather than just one.

James Oldham