Jason Pierce has spent a life untangling life’s complexities with a simplicity like no other. It’s almost like therapy in layman’s terms. We can see ourselves in a Spiritualized song. Not all the time, of course, but everyone has at least one Spiritualized song that evokes the feeling that it was exclusively written for no one else but themselves. It’s what all great artists are capable of.
It’s not hard to reach the conclusion that Everything Was Beautiful is up there with Spiritualized’s finest moments.
Some have said that it’s Pierce’s finest record since the landmark Ladies and Gentleman We Are Floating In Space, however these opinions may be a little rushed. For one, it may be doing Let It Come Down and Amazing Grace a disservice. Albums that where perhaps stifled by the hysteria of those still in fits of enchantment post-Ladies and Gentlemen…. As the years roll on, it has become more evident that ’Come Down and ’Grace are just as important.
In saying that, Everything Was Beautiful is the best Spiritualized record since the latter. While Songs In A & E seemed bloated and Everything Was Beautiful’s predecessor, And Nothing Hurt had the ‘just another Spiritualized album’ vibe about it, 2012’s Sweet Heart Sweet Light certainly had its moments. On the whole, however, it seemed weighed down with off-cuts from Let It Come Down and Amazing Grace. All told, these three records didn’t really convey anything we already knew.
While the remnants of the songs from Everything Was Beautiful have been in the vaults for some time now (many were written alongside And Nothing Hurt), here we are a graced with a reinvigorated J. Spaceman. A Spiritualized record that jumps out at you instead of being an unobtrusive background presence.
The artwork is inspired by similar themes to Ladies and Gentlemen…, and it’s not the only aspect that ties the two albums together. Like Ladies and Gentlemen…, we are greeted with a female voice sending a radio dispatch from the gods to introduce the album (in this instance it’s Peirce’s daughter, Poppy, and not Kate Radley).
While Ladies And Gentlmen’s… opening title track saw Pierce clinging onto the vestiges of hope, Always Together With You is well and truly free from it. If anything, it has ‘wedding song’ written all over it, but in a good way. With a bass groove that cuts through the trademark spatial atmospheres, it’s one of the most striking songs Pierce has written since Cool Waves.
Which leads into Best Thing You Never Had. A song that sees Pierce taking his fractured free-jazz rumblings into some weird hypnotic realm of pop. Pierce hasn’t sounded so at ease in years. And this continues on Let It Bleed and Crazy. Symphonic outhouse blues numbers as Pierce’s raspy purr is delivered through the campfire flames.
The centrepiece of Everything Was Beautiful, Mainline, draws from every influence Pierce has put down on tape over the years, as his cracked drawl rises above backing singer melodies and searing electric blues. It’s a celebration of all things Spiritualized. So, too, The A Song (Laid In Your Arms), which takes its cue from Best Thing You Never Had, possessing an electric roar that rivals Amazing Grace’s Cheapster.
I’m Coming Home Again ends the album as you would expect. Yet another in the long line of self effacing examinations Pierce has conducted over the years (“You cannot be bound if you cannot be free”), this is about as fitting as any closing numbers Spiritualized has delivered. He’s home, and it’s going to be okay.
Both sonically and in lyric, Pierce has lived in the margins set since Spiritualized’s inception. Nonchalantly seeing trends and scenes come and go as each decade passes, Pierce has never played outside his own lines, simply because he’s never needed to.
And while the last decade has been somewhat hit and miss, to the point where Pierce questioned whether there would be another Spiritualized record at all, it’s evident that the best artists in this world, whilst not impervious to making a middling record or two, will always come back strong. With Everything Was Beautiful, Pierce has proven that.
Everything Was Beautiful is out Friday via Bella Union. Purchase from Bandcamp.