“I want it to say something and be a big deal”. So hoped J. Spaceman, or Jason Pierce, interviewed in 2017 during the making of his group’s eighth record, their first in six years.
Well, does it? ‘A Perfect Miracle’ is a reboot of the stelliferous beginning of ‘Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space’; it’s all woozy, slightly downcast bends and warm, enveloping textures, fragility, and it’s got a similar hurried delivery. But that song’s sense of childlike wonder is fractured, the telluric “house on the hill” isn’t exactly a safe haven, and the smoochy sentiment we expect is overridden by a sad plea: “please don’t call”.
There is a kind of symbiosis between the two albums. Indeed, ‘And Nothing Hurt’ was originally pushed back so as to put up a partition between it and 2016’s ‘Ladies and Gentlemen…’ shows at the Barbican. It was these performances that also prompted Pierce to revisit what he’d already come up with. And like ‘Ladies and Gentlemen…’, what follows the lulling-but-kind-of-bruised opener is beefed-up, multi-layered, a bit bluesier and more in tune with that nebulous thing called ‘rock’n’roll’.
On ‘Let’s Dance’, Pierce positions himself precisely as that, the “lonely rock’n’roller”, and while Ariel Pink (with whom Pierce collaborated on ‘Pom Pom’) comes on a touch parodic when he sings, “I’m just a rock'n'roller from Beverly Hills”, this seems sincere. (Another takeaway from this song: if Big Star are “on the radio”, he probably listens to 6 Music.)
‘And Nothing Hurt’’s expansiveness is at odds with the fact that it was recorded in a room in East London (drums excepted) on a laptop and on a limited budget. Pierce says he was a stranger to digital recording prior to this one, and this is coming from the guy who involved almost 120 musicians in the follow-up to ‘Ladies and Gentlemen…’ (which itself was recorded in illustrious studios in Bath, London, NYC and LA), ‘Let It Come Down’. Now, he’s taken to sampling strings from classical records.
It’s a world away from that excess, and from ‘Bedroom Pop’ as we know it. Some of its exponents could definitely try harder on the strength of this, but that’s not to say ‘And Nothing Hurt’ isn’t a bit much occasionally. ‘On The Sunshine’ is a raucous, krautrock womp and ‘The Morning After’ a squally wig-out. ‘Here It Comes (The Road) Let’s Go’ is similarly joyous.
Live – where the group is often at its best – they should sound big, empathic rather than cloying. If this is Spiritualized’s last – and Pierce hasn’t fully rowed-back on that threat, given his lucubrations drove him “crazy” – it’s a very satisfying denouement. If not, it’s still a stellar addition to the Spiritualized® catalogue, matching the vitality of ‘Songs in A&E’ or the richness of ‘that famous one from 1997’, even if it doesn’t say anything especially new.
Words: Wilf Skinner
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