The music created by Jason Pierce – the sole constant member of Spiritualized – has never been known for its simplicity, even if the tenets of his output are easy enough to grasp: classic, bluesy rock heaven-sent by sweeping string arrangements and psychedelic guitar freak-outs. Yet two new tracks, the first since 2012’s warmly received ‘Sweet Heart Sweet Light’, are (by his standards) disarmingly stripped back and even naïve-sounding.
Both clock in at around four minutes, for example, where most tracks from the last album were double that. And they do less to deviate or detract from the respective traditions in which they’re based. ‘I’m Your Man’ is a woozy doo-wop ditty inspired by the sugary pop of the ‘50s; ‘A Perfect Miracle’ is a crooned lullaby wrapped about a lilting acoustic guitar refrain. Rather than veer sideways down psychedelic alleyways – as he first did in Spacemen 3, the seminal psych-rock band Pierce formed in his hometown of Rugby – he steers the tracks softly, gentle in his exploration of new terrain. In the former case, this means that we glimpse twinkling brass arrangements and a shimmering, jubilant guitar solo, before Pierce retreats to the familiarity of his doo-wop tune. In the latter, Pierce leads us to a sweeping orchestral chorus around which he weaves snatches of overlapping backing vocals.
“The naivety and wonder evident in these new tracks suggests that ‘And Nothing Hurt’ will find 2018’s Spiritualized in a good place indeed: inspired by the past, yet continuing to push forwards.”
Neither track – both of which will featured on the upcoming record ‘And Nothing Hurt’, which Pierce has threatened to make his last – is ground-breaking, Then again, Spiritalized hasn’t been about breaking new ground since 1997’s acclaimed masterwork ‘Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space’, a record so great that it pipped Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’ to the post in NME’s Albums of the Year list. Rather, it’s been about refining, tinkering, perfecting the formula in search of nirvana. He threw in a punk edge on 2003’s jagged ‘Amazing Grace’ and sketched in bruised fragility on 2008’s ‘Songs In A&E’, written as he was treated for double pneumonia, but beneath the innovations were the same old, beloved Spirualized preoccupations.
What’s new here is the prominence of that naivety, that sense of childlike wonder (it’s even more evident on the new material than on ‘So Long You Pretty Thing’, the ‘Sweet Heart Sweet Light’ ballad that featured his then-nine-year-old daughter). That’s impressive for an artist whose most acclaimed work, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen…’, celebrated its 20th anniversary last year – the album’s heritage was, eccentrically enough, marked in 2009 with a series of lush live performances – and who has steadfastly refused to become a nostalgia act.
He’s refused £2m to reform Spacemen 3 and claims he only did those ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ shows because he could bring something new to the performances (and even then complainingly compared the project to “catering”). The naivety and wonder evident in these new tracks suggests that ‘And Nothing Hurt’ will find 2018’s Spiritualized in a good place indeed: inspired by the past, yet continuing to push forwards.