I have to confess I was a little relieved the first time I heard ‘Hey Jane’, the initial single from Jason Pierce’s latest offering Sweet Heart Sweet Light. Clocking in at just less than 9 minutes, the song stays true to earlier Spiritualized form, building, swelling and driving forward until the inevitable gospel choir begins. And it only gets better from here.
A lot has been written about this album and the mental state of J. Spaceman during the recording process. A few years after recovering from an almost deadly pneumonia, and recently undergoing chemotherapy for a degenerative liver condition, Pierce is said to be in a good place and to have created his most “happy” album to date. I’m not entirely certain I agree with this initial assessment. Although tracks like ‘Freedom’ and ‘Too Late’ are a little more immediately assessable, with lyrics on ‘Life is a Problem’ like “I won’t get to heaven, I won’t be coming home, I will not see my mother again, cause I’m lost and I’m gone,” I wouldn’t say that this is an album made for a sunny day. Like much of Pierce’s work, sadness and pain is often cloaked in beauty.
This album does bear a very similar structural resemblance to Spiritualized’s masterpiece Ladies and Gentleman We Are Floating in Space, and some songs seem very much related. ‘Get What You Deserve’ has a very comparable undertone and flow as the earlier album’s ‘I Think I’m in Love’. And there are even hints of very early influences, with ‘Headin’ for the Top Now’ sounding like it could have been on Pure Phase.
Album closer ‘So Long You Pretty Things’ is arguably one of the more overtly beautiful songs of the entire Spiritualized catalogue. Just when you think it can’t get any better, the banjo strums in, followed by the choir, the tambourine and the horns. Maybe the happiness and difference people are talking about is actually Pierce sounding like he’s enjoying himself this time around. That much I can agree with. This is still a true to form Spiritualized album, however, and a very successful one at that. Sweet.