Spiritualized, 'Songs in A&E' (Fontana/Spaceman)

8
Songs in A&E
Critical Mass
Label: Fontana/Spaceman

by Josh Modell

Viewed in panorama, Jason Pierce's career looks like the drug rushes that have fueled and inspired it, beginning with the dense, droning energy of Spacemen 3 and early Spiritualized and moving toward more contemplative comedowns. Naturally, the early highs offered more immediate payoff -- later albums sagged -- but number six, Songs in A&E, finds an eerie strength in quietude and mortality.

"Death Take Your Fiddle" begins with haunting breaths -- perhaps inspired by Pierce's near demise from pneumonia in 2005 -- and plays out with Nick Cave–level gloom fueled by resignation, rather than anger. "Don't Hold Me Too Close" finds peaks in emotional valleys, ending with an exhausted yet striking processional. When flirting with greater volume, Pierce sounds less assured: "I Gotta Fire" grasps at psych-blues energy (echoing "Gimme Shelter"), as does buzzy rocker "Yeah Yeah." But when he splits the difference, the lush, surprisingly Oasis-like "Soul on Fire" emerges.

Eventually, everything comes blissfully, perversely together. On the album-closing lullaby "Goodnight Goodnight," Pierce's weathered voice, accompanied by acoustic guitar and humming strings, teases sweet relief ("You'll be all right," he gently sings) after having battered us with songs of doubt ("Baby I'm Just a Fool") and death ("Borrowed Your Gun"). But then, in the final seconds, he delicately intones the words "funeral home" four times. While that may sound oddly pretentious on paper, it somehow makes chillingly perfect sense for a guy fascinated by the beautiful noise of self-destruction.Now Watch This:Spiritualized, "Soul on Fire"

The making of "Soul on Fire"

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