Spiritualized’s previous album, Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space, was one of the standout albums of 1997. Seemingly inspired by his break up with former band member Kate Radley, it was in equal parts unbearably moving and almost frighteningly intense. It left many people wondering exactly how Jason Pierce, who for all intents and purposes is Spiritualized (since he infamously sacked his fellow band members who went on to form Lupine Howl), was going to follow it.
Well, four years later, Pierce has unveiled Let It Come Down, and incredibly he’s managed to surpass Ladies & Gentlemen. Of course, some hardcore fans may not agree. This is possibly the most commercial work that Pierce has ever produced – he’s cut out the avant-garde experimentation that marked previous recordings and has instead concentrated on producing eleven tracks that could almost be described as life affirming.
The general mood that hung over Ladies & Gentlemen was one of sadness and regret. It was a classic ‘break up’ album, one to listen to when you’re left heartbroken and alone. On first listen to Let It Come Over, it could be assumed that Pierce has cheered up, with a series of straight ahead guitar based songs. The Stooges soundalike of opener On Fire gives way to Do It All Over Again, which is reminiscent of none other than Brian Wilson. Proceedings take a more familiar turn on the blistering standout The Twelve Steps.
Over a driving guitar and harmonica, Pierce takes a sideswipe at the recent phenomena of ‘rehab culture’. “The only time I’m drink and drug free is when I get my drink and drugs for free…I won’t get to where I’m going to by hanging round with people like you” sneers Pierce. From a man who once made a record entitled Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To, it’s safe to assume he won’t be checking into the Priory with Mariah Carey anytime soon.
After this exhilarating first half, the album then takes a more elegiac turn. The Straight And The Narrow is a lyrical cousin to The Twelve Steps (“The trouble with the straight and narrow is it’s so thin I keep sliding off to the side”), but musically is much more laid back. It tends to stay that way from here on in, with the single Stop Your Crying and I Didn’t Mean To Hurt You being painfully sad in parts. This latter half of the album is what the word ‘epic’ was invented for – strings and on Won’t Get To Heaven a choir, lend a huge atmosphere to the record.
The lyrics hint that beneath the druggy image, Pierce is as much a doomed romantic as anything else. “I love you like I love the sunrise in the morning….I miss you like I miss the water when I’m burning” he croons in I Didn’t Mean To Hurt You, and makes it sound like the most poignant thing on earth. The album closes with a re-recording of Lord Can You Hear Me?, a re-recording of a song by Pierce’s previous band, Spaceman 3. It’s a fitting companion piece to the new age gospel of Won’t Get To Heaven and is a perfect end to a damn near perfect album.
Although this is probably Spiritualized’s most commercial work, it probably won’t be joining Bob The Builder and Westlife in residency at the top of the charts. This is challenging, intelligent music that deserves a wide audience however. Quite where Jason Pierce goes from here is anybody’s guess. But it’s going to be one hell of a ride finding out.