Spiritualized, 'Amazing Grace' (Spaceman/Sanctuary)

8
Amazing Grace
Critical Mass
Label: Spaceman/Sanctuary

by RJ Smith

Recently released census figures indicate that Detroit has lost some 26,219 citizens since 2000. However, that loss is more than made up for by all the bands around the world who have set themselves up as honorary Rock City residents. Latest to go all White Panther on our asses is Spiritualized, whose Amazing Grace is at peak moments an amazingly graceful representation of MC5/Stooges skid marks on a psychedelic superhighway. Frontman Jason Pierce even says it was the White Stripes' let-it-fly recording style that gave him the inspiration to record all these songs mostly live in three weeks. Next thing you know he'll be dating his "sister."

They do the garage thing a lot better--and, crucially, a lot more casually--than Primal Scream did last year on Evil Heat. Casual is not something you'd ordinarily call Spiritualized, not after the 110-member orchestra, the gospel choir, and the four-year wait for 2001's Let It Come Down. But Amazing Gracefinds redemption, uplift, hope, all in the moment, rather than in the grand gesture. Songs like "Never Goin Back" and "She Kissed Me (It Felt Like a Hit)" don't need a majestic form, they just need to move air. Pierce sees the face of Jesus hovering over a Marshall stack.

On four or five ballads, Pierce exalts his slow-mo slump, curling up, mumbling in a crackly voice, and making you want to drop a dime in his cup. Maybe the record's best moments come when Pierce sounds like he's in total free fall, as veteran British free-jazz saxophonist Evan Parker and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler sit in on "The Power and the Glory" and "Rated X." Kick out the jams.

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