Spiritualized: Everything Was Beautiful (Fat Possum/Bella Union) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Everything Was Beautiful

Fat Possum/Bella Union

Apr 29, 2022 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

In 2018, Jason Pierce spent the rollout to his new record And Nothing Hurt saying that it very well could be his last. After releasing some of the most acclaimed albums in space rock, both with Spaceman 3 and Spiritualized, Pierce found himself creatively burnt out and exhausted. The resulting album was a smaller affair, more fractured and insular than the spacefaring psychedelic epics upon which he had built his name. But, after a relatively short hiatus, Pierce surprised fans with news of a new Spiritualized album, Everything Was Beautiful.

On its surface, Everything Was Beautiful almost reads as a companion piece to And Nothing Hurt. Together the records’ titles complete the Kurt Vonnegut quote borrowed from the opening lines of Slaughterhouse Five (“Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt”). Meanwhile, the Morse code beeps that end the previous record introduce the first moments of the opener “Always Together With You.” Yet, rather than a return to the placid gospel-tinged songwriting of its sister album, Everything Was Beautiful is a truly massive, glorious space rock revival.

From the first song, Pierce is back amongst the stars, promising an unseen love the spacefaring adventure of a lifetime (“If you walk the galaxies/I would walk the galaxies for you/If you’ll be my lonely girl/I would be a lonely boy for you.”) Much like the opening to the band’s 1997 classic Ladies And Gentleman We Are Floating In Space, “Always Together With You” begins in a floating reverie and steadily builds to a transcendently layered climax. This time around, though, Pierce is backed by a soaring orchestra, featuring more than 30 musicians diving headlong into psych rock maximalism.

The results are as dense, lavish, noisy, and frantic as any of Spiritualized’s best moments from albums past. “Best Thing You Never Had (The D Song)” finds the band exploring a bluesy shambolic rock and roll style, while “The Mainline Song” perpetually builds from a quiet drone to a propulsive train ride into the future. Similarly, “Let It Bleed (For Iggy)” ascends to one of the record’s most transportive climaxes, with a coterie of brass and strings mixing with an impassioned vocal performance that captures the gospel fervor of a revival preacher. The pastoral country duet “Crazy” is the closest the album gets to a break in its relentless build, but it proves to be only a slight ambling detour before the record reaches its climactic finish.

Those final two tracks prove to be the album’s most expansive and most potent. The first of the ambitious final pair, “The A Song (Laid In Your Arms),” is an instantly catchy psychedelic showcase in classic Spiritualized style. However, rather than building from a quiet opening into an immaculate fervor, the track begins in a driving triumphant mode and only grows more impassioned as the song continues. In its latter half, the track descends into a squealing free-jazz freakout of guitar theatrics, blaring horns, rollicking drums, and a towering string section.

Conversely, the album’s closer, “I’m Coming Home Again,” sounds more like a reckoning than a celebration. Like much of the album, Pierce meditates on questions of meaning and mortality as the song’s menacing undercurrent grows louder and more prominent. After decades of soul-searching, the answers he seeks remain elusive as the call of mortality grows ever closer. “I’ve been there and/I’ve been back again/Gonna dull it with lorazepam,” Pierce confesses. “Kinda had it with philosophy/‘Cause I’m thinking I am but I’m failing to be/Let it fall, take it quiet, backslide/And be gone again.” With each of the track’s 10 verses the mix steadily becomes more chaotic as more instruments and more voices join Pierce’s choir. As the song reaches its peak, it shifts into a sublime and volatile arrangement of gospel, jazz, and psych influences, crafting a riveting finale that ranks among the band’s crowning achievements.

Although Pierce has always had an adventurous streak, Spiritualized has mined largely the same stylistic vein over the past 25 years, crafting a heady otherworldly mix of strung-out psychedelia, devotional gospel, gritty classic rock, and futurist experiments. Each record takes a different thematic angle or zeros in on a specific aspect of that combination, but the story largely remains the same. This story hasn’t changed with Everything Was Beautiful. If anything, the sound of the record feels like a revival of past glory. Yet, as much as Pierce retains his signature style, the record never feels rote or phoned in. There is immensely evident craftsmanship that runs through the album, and a newly revitalized soul that, for all its beauty, And Nothing Hurt missed. If it turns out that Everything Was Beautiful is the last Spiritualized project we ever get, it is an unexpected gift that lives up to the best of Jason Pierce’s storied career. (www.spiritualized.com)

Author rating: 9/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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