Best albums of 2018: #4 Spiritualized “And nothing hurt”

I’ve been following Spiritualized for well over two decades. I became aware of Jason Pierce’s work in the early 1990s but really dug into it with 1997’s “Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space”, which some of you may remember hit the number one spot in my best albums list for that year back in May. That album is still considered the group’s high water mark by many (including myself), though they have since put out five more albums, each pretty consistently great.

Spiritualized was formed by Jason Pierce in Rugby, England in 1990 when his band with Pete “Sonic Boom” Kember, Spaceman 3, split up. Their early output sounded like a continuation from the earlier band but very quickly Jason Pierce established his own style and sound that mixed elements of psychedelic rock, noise rock, free jazz, and gospel into something he has called “space rock”. In the twenty eight years since their formation, Spiritualized has only put out eight albums and each with a different set of backing musicians. And though Pierce is the creative force and only constant, he has never sought all the attention, as evidenced by his placement at the side of the stage, just one of the players, when the group performs live. It appears, though, that his new album was completed solo, just him, a laptop, and a handful of hired guns.

“And nothing hurt” was a rumoured release for a number of years, word being that it would be the final Spiritualized album. I was beginning to think it would never come when Pierce finally broke the continued silence by posting on several social media outlets in the spring, teasing images, sounds, and Morse code messages. I pre-ordered the standard edition on Amazon immediately but am now wishing that I busted out a few extra dollars for the deluxe edition. As an album, it’s my favourite by the group in quite some time. It’s the closest Pierce has come to replicating the magic of “Ladies and gentleman” and at the same time, it’s more mature and controlled. It riffs on his usual themes of love, drugs, and religion but there seems to be an added sense here of his own mortality.

“And nothing hurt” is as sad and uplifting and beautiful as you could hope for from a Spiritualized album and you get the sense that this could be the end. But you hope it’s not. Have a listen to my three picks below and let me know what you think.


”A perfect miracle”: “I’d like to sit around and dream you up a perfect miracle”, Pierce sings at the beginning of the album opener. This, over top of the gentle strum of a ukulele and with synths and sampled strings, the hint of happiness. He starts each verse with this very line and goes on to suggest he’d do anything for the object of his affection but then, at the chorus, it is all upended with excuses as to why he can’t (or won’t) see her. It goes without saying that it is all lushly arranged, reverting from quiet to loud, though it never really gets super loud, and Pierce just singing the words sadly and almost grudgingly.

”Let’s dance”: This one also starts slowly and quietly but it definitely feels like a builder, right from the first note. The title suggests a nod to David Bowie but this is Pierce, it’s not a proper dance in a dancehall. Sure, it’s the end of the night and he’s a tired and “lonely rock ‘n’ roller” so he seems to be implying a slow, swaying dance that’s more tight embrace for safety than true movement to song. However, the twinkling keys and light tap on the cymbal do eventually give way to a trademark Spiritualized cacophony, albeit one that feels more controlled. Pierce is tired, right?

”I’m your man”: Along with “A perfect miracle”, “I’m your man” was our first glimpse into this new album and the video released for it showed Pierce wearing a spacesuit, which inferred to me a return to the themes of “Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space”. The song title, much like “Let’s dance”, feels like a reference to another classic song. Indeed, Spiritualized’s “I’m your man” is like a response or repudiation to the one by Leonard Cohen. Where Mr. Cohen suggests he will be anything that his lover wants him to be, Pierce says he could do all that but if she wants someone “wasted, loaded, permanently folded”, then, and only then, he’s her man. The music is a bluesy, slow dance number performed by a big band, complete with horns and wistful guitar solos, and Pierce is singing at the side of the stage, tie loosened and top button undone, ready to pack it in for the night. Just awesome.


Check back next Friday for album #3. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. David Byrne “American utopia”
9. James “Living in extraordinary times”
8. The Limiñanas “Shadow people”
7. The Essex Green “Hardly electronic”
6. Colter Wall “Songs of the plains”
5. Middle Kids “Lost friends”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

Vinyl love: Spiritualized “And nothing hurt”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: Spiritualized
Album Title: And nothing hurt
Year released: 2018
Details: standard black, embossed morse code on cover

The skinny: Many of you know by now that I’m a pretty big Spiritualized fan, my favourite of their albums still being 1997’s “Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space“. So I was pretty eager to get to listen to this latest, the eighth for the outfit, ever since I heard this album was a sort of return to 1997 form. I’m currently on the third spin through and I’m just letting it wash over me. It definitely sounds better on my turntable than on my iPod and it’s definitely Spiritualized. Perhaps I’ll have a more concrete opinion after a few more spins…

Standout track: “I’m your man”

Best tunes of 2001: #9 Spiritualized “Stop your crying”

<< #10    |    #8 >>

When we first moved to Ottawa in 2001, my wife Victoria was working for Rogers Cable, having transferred there with her job in the company’s call centre. After a couple of months, though, she end up quitting the job when she found it too much with the workload that her studies demanded. It was good for her in the long run but we took a hit financially for a while and we lost the benefit we received of discounted digital cable service. I may be misremembering it now but I feel like we had every channel known to humankind for the low, low price of free. Of course, we couldn’t afford such luxury on my own meagre salary, so the cable service was cancelled completely when she left the job.

One of the channels I discovered during that brief period was the Edge channel. Connected, I believe, to Toronto’s alternative rock radio channel, it played more music videos than the traditional MuchMusic was doing at the time and of the specific type of music that often appealed to me. And it was here that I first heard the song (and watched the video for) “Stop your crying” by Spiritualized.

I knew that a new album by the band was forthcoming, of course. I had been hotly anticipating it since I fell hard for their third album, 1997’s “Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space”, and in the four year interim, had gone back to purchase and play and replay the previous two. Jason Pierce, meanwhile, had sacked the majority of the band after the “Ladies and gentlemen” tours, enlisted new players, and brought in over a hundred other hands to help record the new album. For “Let it come down”, he moved away from the shoegaze and space, towards a different wall of sound created by symphonic elements: horns and strings and choirs.

The aforementioned video for the song matches the mood and flow of the song perfectly, starting with Jason Pierce seemingly standing alone on a stage during the song’s quiet intro and punch-to-the-gut opening lines. “Nothing hurts you like the pain of someone you love. There ain’t nothing you can gain that prepares you enough.” Then, the lights come up, revealing a stage full of musicians for the exuberance of the chorus lines, while Pierce remains still, singing, oblivious to the other players on the stage, still alone. And he does this throughout, even at the end, when the orchestra is trashing the place and their instruments, he is focused on delivering his message of love and hurt. The video is cut with stills showing images of Pierce and members of his band at intimate moments, suggesting that each of them (and really, us) are all dealing with personal demons and angst. And Pierce, at the centre of this whole storm, wants to take all of our pain away. So great.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2001 list, click here.