Sweet Heart Sweet Light
"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. Sure, there are John Cale-esque strings and ethereal choral backing vocals, but it feels somehow distilled to its melodic core, and there's no grand, cathartic white noise outburst. It sets the stage for a tastefully mature, eminently self-aware album, certainly one of Spiritualized's best to date.
"We're here today and then we're gone/Before we ride into the sun/Get it on," Pierce laments on "Little Girl," almost certainly a response to his own near-death experience with pneumonia, and yet another health scare prior to Sweet Heart Sweet Light that required chemo.
But Pierce is acutely aware of the redemptive and divine healing potential of rock music. He recaptures some of his Spacemen 3-era danger on the vertiginous buzz-saw number "Get What You Deserve," as he cautions, "I'm gonna shoot you while you're laying still/I used up all my affection."
The downtrodden gospel blues number "I Am What I Am" astounds, with its Dr. John-esque piano fills and urbane Motown backing vocals guiding Pierce's swaggering, rapid-fire delivery as he urges, "I'm the heart that calls you home/I'm the grave that marks your stone."
This may or may not be Spiritualized's greatest achievement since Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, as it's been revealed that Pierce pulled a fast one on his record label and reviewers and plans to continue mixing and tweaking the album as close as he can up to its street date. But for now, it's another resounding triumph for Pierce. On Ladies and Gentlemen he captured the restless imagination of youth. Here he captures the elusive process of growing into middle age gracefully on an album suffused with pathos, grief, and wonderment at still being alive to talk about it. (www.spiritualized.com)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 9/10