Jason Pierce is the kind of guy who makes life hard for himself, and you have to admire people like that. His eighth album as Spiritualized, now a solo project, was recorded in the most difficult way possible. This is lush space-pop, crammed with complex string arrangements, countless guitar lines, dense percussion and rich soundscapes – yet he worked nearly completely alone, piecing the album together with little more than Pro Tools and a laptop.
“There isn’t a single bit on that record where anybody plays in the same room as somebody else is playing,” he told the New York Times last month. “It feels like the most ludicrous way of putting something together, and the longer it went on the more stupid it seemed.” The effort paid off, but in a way that is perhaps unexpected.
There is great humanity to ‘And Nothing Hurt’, a collection of wistful, wounded observations, the work of a person wearied by the world, but no less in love with it for that. There is hope and joy and naivety here, even as Pierce sounds like he’s been kicked in the groin before recording another cracked vocal.
On ‘The Morning After’, a rock’n’roll hootenanny swathed in reberb and squalling brass arrangements, he wheezes, “You gotta take the pain / You gotta give it all away”. It’s inspiring: we’re alone, he seems to be saying, and we will get hurt, but we can emerge unscathed. There’s a sense of liberation in the message. The jubilant track concludes with a shrug and a smile: “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon – we’re living / In the modern world”. Like, what you gonna do?
‘Lets Dance’ and ‘On The Sunshine’ are cut from the same beloved, tattered cloth and similarly celebrate our uncertain world. He lives close to a hospital and each track contains sirens from passing ambulances. This contributes to the fragile beauty of ‘And Nothing Hurt’ – because there’s a flipside to the album, a hushed yin to the yang of triumphant songs such as ‘The Morning After’.
‘I’m Your Man’ and ‘A Perfect Miracle’, singles released in June, are lilting nursery rhymes; likewise the penultimate track ‘The Prize’, a minimalist pop ditty on which Pierce admits: “Life’s a prize / But I don’t know, dear / If love, dear, will fall or if it’ll rise”. Bob Dylan once sang, “The only thing I knew how to do / Was to keep on keepin’ on”, to which you sense Jason Pierce can relate.