Sal Klita Blogger | Muzik impressions

Sal Klita Blogger

Tuesday, April 8

Spiritualized New Album 2008: "Songs in A&E"...Leery's one of J. Spaceman sloppiest but best work ever...He aint dead yet.

There are very few bands that can elicit as visceral a response from me as Spiritualized. The very first time I heard the pummeling white noise on the introduction to Live at the Royal Albert Hall give way to the glorious opening note of “Shine a Light,” my knees buckled out from under me and I was left genuflecting in front of my speakers. Upon hearing the title track on Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space for the first time, my eyes started to water uncontrollably. And Spiritualized’s live concerts, the best known legal alternative to powerful psychedelics available today, have frequently caused my tongue to loll and ears to bleed. When Jason Pierce strolls across a stage, disinterestedly clapping for himself along with the rest of the audience, my inner Garth comes out a little bit. I’m not worthy.

For an atheist, J. Spaceman commands devotion.

But for much of the past decade, the Spaceman has been making his fans pay penance for putting up with his irregular genius. True believers have been left to subsist only on a couple of official B-side releases, which contained no surprises for record hounds, a Yoko remix, and two less than stellar studio albums that have made it increasingly difficult to explain your obsession to your friends.

But at long last, Songs in A&E is on the horizon and…omigodomigodomigod {deep breath, deep breath}, it’s actually good. Really good. While Let It Come Down felt overbloated and Amazing Grace was undernourished, Songs in A&E finally regains a balance between minimalist rock arrangements and orchestral embellishments.

Pierce has made name for himself for writing a bevy of pseudo-religious psychotropic platitudes, pretty songs aimed more at numbing the mind than speaking to the heart, but in his years since rehab he seems more inclined to reveal the human being inside the spacesuit. His voice, hoarse and ravaged from a near-death bout with pneumonia, lends a great deal of creedence to this album’s meditations on death, dying, and mortality. With songs like the claustrophobic “Death Take a Fiddle” or the repentant “Borrowed Your Gun,” you get the feeling Pierce is positioning himself as a modern-day, detoxed Townes Van Zandt.

Purely in terms of songwriting, Songs in A&E may very well be Pierce’s greatest accomplishment to date. His signature moves of reverb, repetition, and ascension are now subtler, aimed more at gently sweeping you off your feet than elevating you into another dimension. The serene, swaying arrangement on “Don’t Hold Me Close” and the tender lullaby “Goodnight Goodnight” both barely hover above a whisper, yet keep me stringed like a kite to every syllable muttered. On the opposite end of the spectrum, “You Lie You Cheat” mixes blistering feedback with blissful choral arrangements as effortlessly as anything he’s done in the past. “Soul on Fire,” set to be the first single from the album, starts out with this gem of a verse: “You were born on a black day shot through with starlight, and all the angels singing just about got it right.” It’s quite possibly the most uplifting hymn he’s ever written. Victorious, anthemic, and compact at only 4:00 minutes.

But as magnificent as “Soul on Fire” is, the real heart of the album, for me, is “Baby I’m Just a Fool.” Clocking in at just over 7:00 minutes, it’s by far the longest track on the record, even if that still makes it short by Spiritualized standards. It starts off with a simple two-chord guitar riff reminiscent of “Walking With Jesus” (think Perfect Prescription), and slowly builds into a towering force of orhestral strings, free jazz horns, and pure phases worthy of comparison to anything off LAGWAFIS. “Baby I’m just a man, but I have got the dreams of gods and kings,” sings Pierce, and in doing so gives the most lucid justification needed for music this grandiose.

Songs in A&E may have been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait. Sometimes it pays to have a little faith.

Review by


1. Harmony 1
2. Sweet Talk
3. Death Take Your Fiddle
4. I Gotta Fire
5. Soul On Fire
6. Harmony 2
7. Sitting On Fire
8. Yeah Yeah
9. You Lie You Cheat
10. Harmony 3
11. Baby I'm Just A Fool
12. Don't Hold Me Close
13. Harmony 4
14. The Waves Crash In
15. Harmony 5
16. Borrowed Your Gun
17. Harmony 6
18. Goodnight Goodnight