Former Disney star enlists The Flaming Lips and Ariel Pink on a thrillingly weird surprise album
Songs In A & E
Perhaps the most affecting track is the elegiac ‘Sitting On Fire’, which switches between heavy-hearted, downbeat strumming and mournful strings, Pierce intoning in a low, broken voice, “So hard to fight when you’re losing/And I got a little tear in my soul”, before assuring “set me free/I do believe” and being swept up in a reprieve of shining strings. We’re dragged from that exalted plain, though, by ‘You Lie You Cheat’, a grinding, vengeful blues which snarls in with a distorted squall of angry guitar, Pierce howling “There ain’t nothing more to say… gonna cut you deep and dig your grave”.Then it’s back to soft warmth for ‘Baby I’m Just A Fool’, familiar from last year’s mind-meltingly beautiful Acoustic Mainline shows. Its gentle, almost Americana sound moves from bare strums and tambourines to a dizzying symphonic overload that echoes the ending of ‘A Day In The Life’. It’s an album like a hospital-bed delirium, shape-shifting between the safety and comfort of white sheets and the sweaty panic of brain-heated nightmares.
The standout is ‘Soul On Fire’, Pierce’s most unashamedly uplifting and universal song since ‘Stop Your Crying’. Rather than the bewildering, bedazzling gospel onslaughts of the Acoustic Mainline, it rediscovers the power of a simple beautiful song. Not many could pull off the lines “I got two little arms to hold on tight/And I want to take you higher”; Pierce makes it sound like the most profound thing you’ve ever heard.
In sick times, with extreme politics on the rise and a fright-wigged bad Tory joke in charge of London, this is an album you can retreat to for succour. Definitely in
a stable condition.
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