Music review: Spiritualized’s ‘Sweet Heart Sweet Light’
By Allison Stewart, Published: April 13
The last disc by Spiritualized, 2008’s “Songs in A&E,” lacked the hermetically sealed feeling of the group’s best albums. It had guest vocalists and cover songs and other unhelpful reminders of the existence of the outside world. Their new disc, the great, airless “Sweet Heart Sweet Light,” rectifies this problem.
Sweeping and grand, overdone to perfection, it exists at the four-way intersection of space and psych rock, Brit pop and blues. This is familiar territory for frontman Jason Pierce, who constructs “Sweet Heart” from the same materials as most Spiritualized albums, jumbled together in mostly the same ways: There’s the usual fascination with American musical forms (especially gospel), Madchester nostalgia, references to Jesus, drugs, death and early ’70s Bowie nostalgia.
There’s nothing here that comes close to popcorn music — Pierce doesn’t do popcorn music — but by Spiritualized standards, “Sweet Heart” is almost accessible. Songs come in at reasonable lengths, and although most don’t have hooks, they’re almost conventionally structured, and anchored in way that keep them from floating off into the ether.
“Hey Jane” is eight-plus minutes of wobbly organ and a pinballing beat; it’s one of only a few songs that don’t make reference to Pierce’s health problems (which include double pneumonia and liver disease). “Sometimes I wish that I was dead,” he croons on the rollicking roots-rock-meets-space-opera “Little Girl,” because “only the living can feel the pain.” And that’s one of the happy songs. “I Am What I Am” represents the apotheosis of Pierce’s Americana aspirations. Co-written by blues legend Dr. John, it’s a stunner, a gospel song for the chillout tent.