Spiritualized: Everything Was Beautiful – a defiant up yours to the pandemic

Everything Was Beautiful
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Artist: Spiritualized
Genre: Alternative
Label: Bella Union

When Jason Pierce mixed the 2001 album Let it Come Down, his car was parked at Abbey Road studios for so long, sap seeping down from a tree turned it green. Pierce is renowned for a high standard of sonic perfection and a penchant for lavish artwork and packaging. Everything Was Beautiful is a companion piece of sorts to And Nothing Hurt in 2018, which is almost a blink of an eye ago compared to the hiatus between some Spiritualized records. It sees Pierce play sixteen different instruments in eleven different studios. At least his car might have got a bit more use this time around.

Listening to the opening track on headphones proves just how good he still is at sculpting sound. Ambulance sirens meld into a glorious marriage of noise, melody and vulnerability that could only conceivably be him on Always Together With You, which is such a Spiritualized style title and song, right down to its slightly Christmassy and otherworldly feel.

References to his back catalogue are peppered throughout. In 1997, Kate Radley's voice announced the title of Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space. Pierce's daughter, Poppy, who worked on the frontline for the NHS in recent years, intones the album's title. Mainline is a nod to the Pure Phase era, when Pierce briefly renamed the band Spiritualized Electric Mainline, while its lyrics revisit Sweet Heart Sweet Light, Pierce's 2012 album where Poppy Spaceman first appeared on the credits.

The enduring primal influence of Iggy Pop is honoured in Let it Bleed (Song for Iggy), a huge sounding blues epic. Crazy is Pierce's inimitable take on a country ballad, while there is plenty of Velvet Underground style power riffs on Best Thing You Never Had (The D Song), in addition to probably the album's finest track, The A Song (Laid in Your Arms). "The clock on the wall says a quarter to four," Pierce sings as his band crank up the volume. "TV takes umbrage you've seen it before. One man's crime is another man's cure and you're gone."

While Pierce is probably playing to the gallery with a work that seamlessly fits in with the rest of his oeuvre, he hasn’t sounded this effective and direct in years. Everything Was Beautiful is an emotional album. It sounds a bit like a defiant up yours to the pandemic. After all, Pierce was declared dead twice in the early noughties. Everything else since then has been a bonus, and he knows that better than anyone.

The final track, I'm Coming Home Again, sounds like someone bringing it all back to the cosy hearth while singing from the heart, his voice gently cracking with emotion. He's coming home again. It is our pleasure to be invited.

Éamon Sweeney

Éamon Sweeney, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about music and culture

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