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Spiritualized

Jason Spaceman? Wasn't he George Jetson's Boss?

Introduction
Lazer Guided Melodies
Pure Phase
Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space
Royal Albert Hall October 10,1997
 

Rising up from the smoking (snoring?) ashes of Spacemen 3, Spiritualized is Jason Pierce’s continuation of the S3 space-shoegazer rock thang, using updated 21st century cutting edge technology like violins and harmonicas. In fact, the whole sound is upgraded. Instead of S3’s rather repetitive and often melodically retarded minimalism (Jang! Jang! Jang!), Spiritualized seems to want to try for the sky this time. Songs change, evolve, there are dynamics and cool sounds galore. Its still Shoegazer rock, meaning don’t think punk rock is going on here.

Actually, JSpaceman has a cool preoccupation with rootsy blues music, which lends his new band a, shall we say, legitimacy, when he talks about such things as God and life and drugs and stuff. S3 too often sounded really detached from feeling, which is where Jason really hits it this time around. Prettier singing, too. And one hell of a fine live show.

 


Lazer Guided Melodies - Dedicated 1992.

Jason Spaceman Pierce finally did what he wanted to do and dropped Sonic Boom like a load of bricks. And he had a lot of pent-up frustration and angst and bad breath and he let vent on this loud, horrid slab of vitriol!

No, not really. Its actually nice and soothing. Jason’s songs had been like that for a few years. He doesn’t even refer to S3 here. He’s still messed up, of course…it wouldn’t be Jason Spaceman without good drugs, but he adds himself some horns and flute and organ and generally makes his songs sparkle! If you've heard the last few S3 albums, nothing here will surprise or stimulate you all that much.

The number one thing that ticks me off about this record is the fact that the CD has only four tracks on it, each split into three songs. So, if you want to make sure which song you're hearing, you actually have to engage your brain instead of merely looking at the number on the CD player. How fucking irritating. Around this time all sorts of bands started to be cute with their CD track numberings and hidden tracks and shit (Nirvana! NIN! Flaming Lips! I'm looking at you, you little indie wannabes!)

'If I Were With Her Now' sounds like something REM would come up with now, 'Run' cops from Lynyrd Skynyrd lyrics (or whoever Skynyrd stole from), but in a cool, fast sort of way, 'Symphony Place' is like S3's 'Ecstasy' with a full orchestral backing, 'Take Your Time' sounds JUST like S3, 'Shine a Light' is the best song on the album, but sounds just like most of the others, '200 Bars' has some counting and stuff, but then gets really groovy, then counts again to finish up the album.

But really now, the album is smooooth. Really fuzzily produced and full of slow songs and poppy Recurring - side B type business. Lots of vocal harmonies and echo (of course). I'm not really all that taken with it, to be honest. I think it goes on way too long and begins to wear down with too many tracks that make you want to lay back and think about your retirement fund. Sounds awfully similar to itself. Too much mushy echo. Good, I mean, but not exciting...

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Pure Phase - Dedicated 1995

Where Lazer Guided Melodies leaves off, this one continues. Its just as flaccid as Lazer, but it rocks harder in general and has a less fuzzy disposition. It won't take your head off, and it goes on too long like Lazer did. In short, Lazer Guided II with more instrumentation. I may not know jack shit about production, but this sounds nearly poppy Wall-of-Sound-ish. Like he has an orchestra in the room, and each and every one of them has just dosed some H. But there is good gravy in them grooves, so lets take a look...

Highlights include the opener ‘Medication’, which sho is coo. And it's 8 minutes, but won’t make you look at the clock, not once! Its neato! ‘The Slide Song’ is sho nuff purty, too. That flute is nice for a closet Jazzbo like meself. ‘These Blues’ realizes something I’ve suspected for years…electric harmonica is really cool. The first truly bitchin' guitar solo on the record here, too. MBV, eat yer heart out.

On the other hand, ‘Electric Phase’ is merely noise, but I supposed it's there to make a point, like that your third song on your second album should be a tuneless, lyricless, noise track. ‘Take Good Care of It’ sounds like ol’ S3, with a lot of echoing and droning and no rhythm or melody, which is a little out of place here.  ‘Electric Mainline’ does GO somewhere, and in a pretty cool fashion, too. If you have 7.5 minutes of patience. If you don’t, try some drugs or read a book. This is damn fine reading music. I could read all day to this stuff. Actually I wrote my entire Bachelor’s thesis listening to Spiritualized. Subject: Chemical Engineering (hahahaha!), really. ‘Lay Back in the Sun’ sounds like, forgive me, The Mamas and Papas. Well, with drone-y guitars and shit, but still…I don’t think its quite cool enough to have ‘Electric Mainline’ as its lead-in.

‘Good Times’ is NOT the theme song to the bittersweet, topic-based dramedy from the mid-70’s starring Mr. Jimmy Walker. But maybe it should be. This song is filler, at least for this album. And it does the whole, lets-speed-things-up-at-the-end-cos-I-didn’t-write-a-cool-enough-song-in-its-own-right bit. Then ‘Pure Phase’ goes ‘Whooooosh’ (and only ‘Whooooosh’, nothing but the ‘Whooooosh’) for a long time until ‘Spread Your Wings’ goes ‘honk!’, then gets nice and pretty to send us on home. Almost a tear-jerker ending, if rock n roll albums can in fact have those, besides ‘Her Majesty’ on Abbey Road, of course.

Oh Crap! Then there’s another song….’Feel Like Going Home’ But its only Jason fucking with his guitar, making creepy noises until more really sad strings and synths come in over it. But this really seems like too much of a good thing at this point and you wish the album were over. Then a bit that sounds like Yes (no shit).

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Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space - Arista 1997

Oh crap this is a cool record. This is one of the only nearly perfect albums of the past few years. Jason Pierce’s crowning achievement, for sure. He actually sounds like he’s feeling something here, for the first time, probably. He sings a lot about love! He still sings a lot about drugs! Man, but that band sounds fine! He turns down the vocal echo and ups the gospel/blues influence...and starts making a lot of sense in a big hurry. I'd give it an A+, but Royal Albert Hall is even better, is live, and, hell, is one of the very best albums, anytime ever.

‘Come Together’, not the Spacemen 3 cover of the MC5 song, has just about 10 million musicians playing on it on that there track. I played on it, the ‘4th tenor VibraSlap’, actually. You sure you weren’t there? And there’s Jason, going on excitedly about how messed up he is…cool!

Then the intro to ‘I Think I’m In Love’, which sounds like something from a Miles Davis electric concert from 1975 or so, except for the harmonica part. Then the singing, which, if you’ve heard Spiritualized before, sounds like something you’d like…then A BEAT! Holy shit! A fonky little beat like it sounds like Charlie Watts is in the studio, or maybe just Ringo. Damn, is this a first? Anyway, here the song gets even cooler. Listen to all those layers up in there…zowie! ‘Think I can Rock n Roll….probably just twistin’’ heh heh!

Lemme tell you how nice it is to hear Jason Pierce, one of the poster boys of addiction-rock, come up with such great music after recording for over 10 years….I mean, the guy keeps getting better and better. Spacemen 3 was cool, but it sort of got really limited and then there was Spiritualized, which at first was like a better S3, but was a little fuzzy around the edges, like a little out of focus sometimes, then THIS…wow. Totally clear, totally well written, good melodies, but still, its J Spacemen’s style. S3 songs would take one cool sound and do it for 6 minutes (or 45). Now he’s combining 4 or 5 cool things into each song, loud and soft parts, space-out parts and noise parts…

Back to the record…’All of My Thoughts’ starts like its going to be another floater-rock song, then blasts to some cool noise, then REALLY pretty stuff again. More noise.' Stay With Me’ is slow space-rock.  ‘Electricity’, which is one of his older songs from last album, he does again with his HUMONGOUS band. This song is really fast and wild and good. I wonder why he did it a second time, but I’m not here to judge.

Shit, wait a sec…I am too. Judgement: Its not the first damn time he’s put out multiple versions of a song…re: ‘Walkin’ With Jesus’ fer gawd’s sake.

'The Individual'-- a really cool free jazz noise thing....into 'Broken Heart', which is really sad and depressing but mmmm, buttery good. 'No God Only Religion' has a cool title, and kicks hard in an orchestral sort of way.

Okay, I'm not going to belabor my point. This album is great, and it has Dr. John on the last track and its the best album of the last 5 years, with the possible exception of 'Zaireeka'. Get this. Its good stoner rock, good guitar rock, hell, good free blues...whatever you want. It sounds ALIVE, much more so than earlier Spacemen stuff.  Its far enough out there to be original, yet grounded in good 'ol Chocolate City. I hear its even played on W.E.F.U.N.K. ('Tha Bomb!')

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 Live at the Royal Albert Hall October 10 1997 - Arista 1998

Perfect. A perfect live album. And I consider myself a live album aficionado. This is outstanding. It has everything that makes Jason 'Spaceman' Pierce a great musician. And goes well beyond them. It rocks, it has noisy parts, free jazz parts, blues parts, orchestral parts, dreamy pop parts, his band is huge and has a million layers to it, it has bitchin slide guitar... it takes all the best tracks from Ladies and Gentlemen, some of the best songs from Pure Phase and Lazer. Don't think you don't need it just because you have everything else...actually I'd buy it first. It actually pushes rock music to someplace NEW, and its live.

Listen to how it begins...piano, synth...'Oh Happy Day'....'When Jesus washed....washed my sins away'...slide guitar, like a slow blues....then shoo shoo shoo shoo... noise....grating, nerve damaging noise for 6 minutes....oh my God....building until your head will pop like a grape, about 10 million people playing at the same time free jazz...if you listen to one part only, you'll go nuts, I swear...God is dying your girlfriend hates you your dog ran away the floor is falling into a great big hole and you've got a thing inside your head trying to screw through your sinus building building building GAWWWD! FUCK! FUCK! FUCK FUCK! ...

'Shine a Light'....you are back under the sun again. Oh God...how beautiful can life be? Building up to a peak that is orgasmic. This live album will show you. Beyond drugs, beyond love....

Buy the shit out of this and then play it until you have to buy another copy, like I did. Forget Live at Leeds or whatever other people think is the best ever live album. Perfect tone, perfect sound, perfect performance. The best and greatest band of the late 90's...forget Radiohead or Blur or the Lips or whatever.  This one is it.

It's beautiful.

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Let it Come Down - Arista 2001

Incomplete

This long awaited followup to the ultracool Ladies and Gentlemen was just released in September 2001. I'll probably actually go out and try to find it and shell out my hard earned rubles for it when I can. It's gotten some positive reviews and the two singles I've heard on www.spiritualized.com sound like he's doing Ladies and Gentlemen, the Orchestral Sessions, which kicks my butt all up and down the sidewalk. Stay tuned.

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First Posted 9.27.01


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