Photo: Sarah Piantadosi
For those not familiar with Spiritualized, or Jason Pierce, here is a brief crash course. Originally Jason was part of Spaceman 3, a highly influential English band out of the ‘80s and into the ‘90s making modern noise-filled psychedelic music. Their dictum was infamously taking drugs to make music…to take drugs to. Never sticking to one style, they created their own blend of rock, space rock, jazz, and noise, with a bit of gospel and blues thrown in. After their split in 1991, Pierce went on to form Spiritualized and, following the same template, crafted eight albums that are acclaimed by critics and fans alike, with 1997’s Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space considered by most to be his masterpiece. It is an unflinching suite of songs soaked in drugs and heartbreak and how you try to stop one with the other and it doesn’t end well. Pierce had recently broken up with keyboardist Kate Radley, who secretly married The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft. There are points in that album where I want only to stand in the vortex of all the noise and just exist and feel everything. It resonates with me on such a level that it can be hard to articulate all the feelings it invokes. Over the course of Spiritualized’s 30 years, Pierce has not strayed far from his formula, which is not a bad thing at all.
The songs that make up Everything Was Beautiful started life as demos in 2013-2014 in the songwriting sessions for what ultimately became 2018’s lovely And Nothing Hurt. He initially envisioned a double album but was convinced to split them into two releases. (And for those that don’t know, the two album titles are from Kurt Vonneguts’s Slaughterhouse Five, “Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt.”) Over the three-and-a-half years since that release, he’s been able to rework these into an incredibly joyous, mostly high energy album, even if there isn’t a central theme that ties all the songs together. Pierce isn’t in any hurry to rush music out, as you can see from how long he typically takes between records (he only released two other LPs in the previous ten years). Songs on this album range from Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space-era spaced-out, druggy music (“Always Together with You”) to a country rocker (“Crazy”) to slow building symphonic with gospel brilliance (“The Mainline Song”). In other words, it’s a Spiritualized album.
Pierce does tend to follow similar patterns and song styles in his breadth of work, but that doesn’t mean his work is not excellent, because it has been for his entire career. This album is no different, and for this reviewer, might be his best work since his 1997 magnum opus, the aforementioned Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space. Everything here works to such a degree that it’s hard to comprehend an album this experimental and filled with a cacophony of glorious noise is such a late in the career entry. On And Nothing Hurt, he still employed his brand of noise, but things were much more mature, subdued even. Here, he’s pushed the pace and these songs are all the better for it.
Stand Out Tracks: “Always Together With you,” “Best Thing You Never Had,” “The Mainline Song,” “The A Song” | Michael Koehler
Spiritualized on tour:
04.21.22 | Big Sur, CA – Henry Miller Memorial Library
04.22.22 | Indio, CA – Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival
09.08.22 | Washington, DC | 9:30 Club
09.09.22 | Chapel Hill, NC | Cat’s Cradle
09.10.22 | Atlanta, GA | Variety Playhouse
09.11.22 | Pelham, TN | The Caverns
09.13.22 | Milwaukee, WI | Turner Hall Ballroom
09.14.22 | Minneapolis, MN | Fine Line
09.16.22 | Detroit, MI | Saint Andrew’s Hall
09.18.22 | Toronto, ON | The Danforth Music Hall
09.19.22 | Montreal, QC | Corona Theatre
09.20.22 | Boston, MA | Royale
09.22.22 | Philadelphia, PA | Union Transfer
09.23.22 | Jersey City, NJ | White Eagle Music Hall
09.24.22 | New York, NY | Beacon Theatre