Album: Sweet Heart Sweet Light
Label: Fat Possum
Sweet Heart Sweet Light belongs to an endangered specie of musical output in the 21st century: the Album, that edifice of recorded song that dominated the 20th and now looks to be rendered obsolete by the single-track leaning audience of MP3 blogs and capsule reviews. Spiritualized have given us a rare pleasure: a rock album that you have to listen to more than once, or half a time, or a quarter of time.
Despite the pathetic cover art, which has been defended and justified all over the press while remaining quite shitty, Jason Pierce has delivered a collection of songs that is primarily focused on what he does well and right: good songwriting paired with tasteful and inventive instrumentation. While his lyrics frequently forage from the cliché phrasebook [“Sometimes I wish that I was dead / ‘Cause only the living / Can feel the pain”], the melodies that the words are embedded in remind us that good music can make
the old and familiar into something new, vital, and emotional. As a notion, that’s a bit of a cliché itself, but it’s a valuable function of popular music that Pierce hasn’t forgotten in the years since his great nineties effort, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space.
The lyrics quoted above are from Little Girl, the song that has earned infinite repeat status on my various devices. Like much of this album [and much of rock and roll], it’s about the quick passing of things that matter, and how that fleetingness is a crucial part of the value of those things.
On a track-by-track basis, Sweet Heart Sweet Light speaks of an engaged, interested songwriter who is still curious about what he can do with music, and how what he does applies to his concept of the world around him. Much of this album was written during a tussle with a life-threatening illness [a liver disease that probably took a little more than tussling to defeat], and the extra sheen of death-confronting truth revives the hidden content in the clichés that populate the lyrics, and in the cliché that rock-and-roll itself has become for many listeners, defeats skepticism and forces you to engage with the music.