Monday, April 20, 2009

Spiritualized

A long time ago, right after they put out Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, I wrote down some random thoughts on Spiritualized. I didn't know that since then, they would put out a series of good but not great albums and that Ladies and Gentlemen would remain, in many ways, their peak, perhaps one of the best albums of the 1990s. The band (well, Jason Pierce, basically), churned out some sublime music in the early 1990s, which I was woefully unaware of at the time. For some reason that I don't even remember, I showed up at a record release party for Ladies and Gentlemen at the Trocadero in Philly in the fall of 1997 and hearing the album from beginning to end for the first time blew my mind. Anyway, I've been on a Spiritualized kick recently (umm...a soundtrack to the spring of 2009...), particularly Lazer Guided Melodies and Ladies and Gentlemen. The former is beautifully sad and the latter is sadly beautiful. One track from Ladies and Gentlemen, "I Think I'm In Love," is superb. Here is an incredible 10-minute long live version recorded during the 1997 tour. Best listened at 3.30 am, tired, and alone....

And below are my thoughts on seeing Spiritualized on that tour, particularly that selfsame song.

Spiritualized -- I Think I'm In Love [mp3]

The following is from Fred (written in August 1999). Original here.

Well, apparently Jason Pierce of Spiritualized has fired the remaining members of the band (they received "formal letters of termination") only weeks after the band signed a contract for a new album. Rumour has it that doctors diagnosed ol' Jason as suffering from "nervous exhaustion" after the humongous project of the last live album. New album in the works evidently, although given the pace at which Pierce works, we should not anticipate a new album until about 2002 or something like that.

Listening right now to their last studio album, Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space, you kind of wonder at Mr Pierce's mental state. His words and tone of voice skirt both pathos and bathos, sort of transcendental and yet completely childlike. His music is all swirling organs, distant echoey guitars, soft lush drums, celebratory horns, and backup singers from church choirs, the kind of music that is seemingly several dozens of rows away at a record store from his antecedent drug-frenzy-fueled band Spacemen 3. It's all mixed perfectly, immaculately, nary a missed note nor an extra bar in any song. Ironically or not, among the best songs are the ones where he ups the bile and spits out vitriol and/or self-loathing at breathneck pace ("Electricity," "Come Together," and "Cop Shoot Cop...."). For those that like to sit infront of their stereo and nod away all alone in the dark without realizing that a song's gone on for over ten minutes, I highly recommend "Cop Shoot Cop...," the album's closing track, a 13 minute freakout extravaganza that pummels the mind into submission into an extended mush where you can barely breathe---it's all heroin nodding---without the heroin of course. The amazing thing about this year's version of Spiritualized (well, actually version 1997-98) is the amazing tenderness that Pierce is capable of amid all that cacophonous orgy of noise (Umm, talk about music-critic-speak there). His lyrics are so simple, that in Celine Dion's grasp, they would make great movie soundtrack material for a kiss between Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. In the hands of Spiritualized, they're disarming, not cloying, almost beautiful. In the album's second centerpiece "I Think I'm In Love," a gorgeously beautiful swinging (and very long) ode to the indeciveness that plagues us at every moment we think we've got a clue about life, there is a call and answer pattern through the lyrics:

"I think I'm in love / probably just hungry
I think I'm your friend / probably just lonely
I think you got me in a spin now / probably just turning

I think I'm a fool for you now / probably just learning

I think I can rock and roll / probably just twisting

I think I wanna tell the world / probably ain't listening

I think I can fly / probably just falling

I think I'm the life and soul / probably just snorting

I think I can hit the mark / probably just aiming

I think my name is on your list / probably just complaining..."


And it goes on like this, while organs rise and fall, guitars come in and out, and you let your hair fall over your eyes as you sway your body to a beat that is irresistable. Well, it's a dream that doesn't exist.

Although flawed by its somewhat overpowering church organ ambitions, it was one of the best CDs that came out in 1997. Seeing them in concert late that year (I think it was November or December), the album came fully alive on stage. The sound was exquisite, the transcendence much more immediate, the guitars more ringing, and the church organs less overpowering. On their single "Electricity," Jason and Co. took their flying saucer and took off into the ozone on a power riff worthy of the best psychedelic garage band from the 1960s: "Eeee-lec-tricity / let it rain all over me." It was all 1966 and paisley pants with amplifiers and effects from 1996. Very few bands can pull off the loud / soft aesthetic successfully in concert. Amazingly Spiritualized did. On "Electricity" they were as loud as I imagine Spacemen 3 once were, yet on "Broken Heart," Pierce was a crushed figure on stage, a doll, talking through a broken megaphone about his pathetic broken heart. Broken heart indeed. Apparently after finishing the album, Pierce's girlfriend (and Spiritualized keyboardist) Kate Radley quit the band (and her boyfriend) and hooked up with Verve lead singer (Richard Ashcroft). The issue was somehow complicated by the fact that Pierce was living at Radley's mum's house (mum as they say in England). Evidently, Pierce continues to live at mum's house. Think of a Rumours of the 1990s. Except one that's much longer, and with heroin instead of cocaine.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Was this from the Albert Hall CD?

Conor said...

"For those that like to sit infront of their stereo and nod away all alone in the dark without realizing that a song's gone on for over ten minutes, I highly recommend "Cop Shoot Cop...,"-That pretty much sums up the majority of my listening experiences.

funhouse said...

Yeah, the live track is from the Royal Albert Hall concert on October 10, 1997. (I saw them on December 5, 1997 at the Troc in Philly...anybody have a recording of that date?)

And yeah, I totally relate to the (really) long song experience. Especially with stuff like Spiritualized.