Album Review: Spiritualized ‘Sweet Heart Sweet Light’
Great leaders have the uncanny knack of surrounding themselves with the best talent. Before impact can be made in any industry, leaders find ability, mold the talent, and then set their products free. While this process might seem rudimentary, oftentimes most people in charge miss the mark. A thick ego can bog the brain. Tyrannical thought, mixed with a self-serving aptitude typically leads to a premature death for many projects. Revolutionary bands like the Sex Pistols were shut down with so much more left in the tank. They lasted only three years because of John Lydon’s (Johnny Rotten) constant disputes with those who were helping drive his radically rebellious mission. Exhibit B is Noel Gallagher. He compared Oasis to the Beatles and became blinded by self-worth. Ego rose above blood and he pushed his brother to the side by ending a project that had much more to offer. I do not bring up these stories to defeat the mood, because that is not what we do around here. I attempt to identify band abandonment in order to showcase someone who has maintained brilliant leadership for nearly three decades. The key here is that one man has found a way to allow success to survive, while maintaining control over a revolving door of musical talent.
Jason Pierce has represented consistency and proper organization over the years with his band Spiritualized. Prior to fronting Spiritualized, Pierce drove Rugby, Warwickshire band Spacemen 3. From 1982-1991 this band grew an enormous cult following in the independent music scene in England while shifting band members regularly. Pierce was continually able to maintain synergy with new members and project music that kept listeners engaged regardless of the people involved. Towards the end of Spacemen 3, Pierce decided to do what any musical executive does best, start fresh. In complete start-up mode, he grew an idea and surrounded himself with the best talent available and then watched it blossom. I share this story with the readers of Thought on Tracks because it is important to not only note Pierce’s drive and leadership, but also to highlight his longevity. While many listeners did not think he could not produce another release that held a candle to Spiritualized’s 1997 release, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, I write this review to say that he has made a hell of a try nearly 12 years later.
Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space set the bar for Pierce’s career by giving him that album that listeners will remember forever. It amazes me that this feat was reached and sanity was preserved during the 30 years of band attrition that Pierce was forced to reconcile with. While this kind of band turnover would make the typical crazy front man jump off the deep end, it has oddly has given Pierce a rare lasting energy . Pierce corralled the newest members of Spiritualized together and released Sweet Heart Sweet Light this week. Serving as a mirror image to Pierce’s career, this record has immediate staying power and the opportunity to flirt with the year’s best.
I am struck by the 8:51 of “Hey Jane”. The breakdown, just past the 3:30 mark, grabs the listener’s attention for the rest of the album. Bass build up, a screaming electric lead and drums that kick, have caused rock and roll to officially land for me in 2012. Lyrics, “Hey Jane, when are you going to die?” are repeated over and over again as this epic anthem comes together. This song plays like a rock opera with serious substance. I will have trouble finding another song this year that fills the speakers the way “Hey Jane” does.
Song, “Too Late” intimately begins with a string section. The mood comes off calm, comfortable and collected. The character references past advice from mom and demands my attention. Speaking as a mother Pierce states, “Don’t get to deep because you know you know you’ll regret, heart ache and pain because that is what you get”, which digs deep for me. Pierce projects words of wisdom by those who know more, but highlights the theme that the listener chooses to ignore the obvious. Hanging on to a smokers mentality until something serious happens, Pierce is able to project an ignorance is bliss atmosphere throughout this record. I can look back on many moments in life that I chose to discount advice, but now I am able to realize how big of an idiot I was for the ignorance. If you find yourself looking back on stupid moves of the past then this record is for you.
I would be remiss not to mention the beauty that closer “So Long You Pretty Thing” offers. Opening line, “Help me Lord, help me Jesus because I am lonely and tired” begins to put Pierce’s theme of carefree and live each like it his last into perspective. This song offers tremendous quality to close out a record because it counteracts everything that he presents listeners with throughout the rest of the record. It is hard to identify if these thoughts are genuine or faded realization covered with regret. Sometimes all it takes is a moment of vulnerability to create a masterpiece and I strongly believe that Pierce was able to reach that point here. This song demands the most important quality that music can offer for me, reflection. A “Holocene” type impact bottled with hope. This song is a quick recovery that causes me to forget past events to believe in.
Sweet Heart Sweet Light is one of those records that not only caused me to reflect on the music itself, but the career of Jason Pierce as a whole. Many others will review this record and sing its praises, but I want to focus on Pierce as a great musical leader in this one. Throughout decades of crazy lifestyles with countless crazy partners, Pierce has continually provided his listeners with releases that have kept us all engaged. Pierce possesses an eye for talent and an even greater capacity to bring it together. While Jason Pierce might not go down noted in the same breath as Johnny Rotten or Noel Gallagher, those who he has reached will always recognize him. He continually projects a subtle style of direction that will always cause me to follow.
Written by Brett McGrath