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What’s the Deal? Space rock was born in Rugby, England in 1990 with the demise of Jason Pierce’s previous band, Spaceman 3. Spiritualized’s sixth studio album, Songs in A&E, out today in the U.S., is inspired by Pierce’s brush with death in an Accident and Emergency ward (hence the A&E) after a near-fatal bout of pneumonia. A bombastic tour-de-force, 18 tracks of gospel-tinged psychedelia are matched by eerie echoes of whirring electronics and droning church bells, as single “Soul on Fire” recalls the airy symphonic angst of 1997’s Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space.

Who? While Jason Pierce remains the only constant of Spiritualized ever-changing dynamic, the band’s tumultuous history includes ex-girlfriend/keyboardist Kate Radley (now married to Verve front man Richard Ashcroft), original bandmate Steve Evans, and Sean Cook, Michael Mooney, and Damon Reece of Lupine Howl, fired by Pierce in a well-publicized protest over fees in the British press. Experimental Welsh keyboardist Thighpaulsandra replaced Radley for 2005’s Amazing Grace, with ex-Julian Cope band members Martin Scheller, Doggen, and Kevin Bales filling out the lineup for Songs in A&E.

Fun Fact: Pierce created the score for indie icon Harmony Korine’s 2007 film, Mr. Lonely. He attributes a personal meeting with the filmmaker that gave him the strength to continue Songs in A&E, with six orchestral “Harmony” interludes inspired by their collaboration. But it doesn’t stop there: The harrowing “Don’t Hold Me Close” features a duet with Korine’s wife Rachael.

On the Web:
Spiritualized on MySpace

Now Watch This:
Spiritualized, “Soul on Fire”

The making of “Soul on Fire”