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Tunes

Best tunes of 2012: #9 Spiritualized “Hey Jane”

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The first time I saw Spiritualized perform live was on the Toronto stop for their tour in support of “Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space”, way back at the end of November 1997. My friend Terry had picked me up a ticket to the show and he still (amazingly) had an extra ticket on the day of the concert. On the way to the bus stop to head down to the show, we ran into another friend of ours, named Mark, and convinced him to come with.

That night will live on in infamy for the three of us. We made more than a few stops for drinks on the way down to the now shut-down Guvernment Night Club, where Jason Pierce and his band were slated to play. Indeed, by the time the headlining act hit the stage, we were all very deep in the bag. For me, it was incredible, akin to a religious experience, but I can still very clearly remember Mark touching my shoulder at the end of the first song, his eyeballs as huge as cannonballs, telling me he had to leave. For him, it was all just too intense.

Fast forward fifteen years or so. I hadn’t seen Terry for a long time. However, I was still quite close to Mark, though we hadn’t lived in the same city – for some periods, the same country – for more than a decade. I was now living in Ottawa with my wife and Mark was living back in his hometown of Sault Ste Marie. I believe it was April 2012 that my wife and I put Mark up for a week so that he could take a course and write a test to qualify for a job fighting wildfires in Northern Ontario. We were working during the days while he was on his course and he was super exhausted in the evenings so we didn’t see him a lot.

When the week finished out, we had one proper night to catch up and share some laughs before he was due to catch the long bus back home. That night, the two of us killed five bottles of wine, a half bottle of scotch, and a handful of beers and we were up real late. At some point, we started watching YouTube videos on my laptop, each sharing new tunes with the other and on one of my turns, I slipped on the video for Spiritualized’s latest tune, “Hey Jane”, having heard the song but not having seen the video. We got just over half way through it when my friend asked gently if we could switch to something lighter. So still too intense for my friend, but this time, for a different reason (if you’ve seen the video you know what I mean).

Spiritualized’s seventh record, “Sweet heart, sweet light”, came four years after “Songs in A & E”, the album widely seen as Jason Pierce’s comeback, for many reasons, but most significantly because of his near death experience, and it also came after he spent the previous year performing the aforementioned landmark album, “Ladies and gentlemen”, in full, at various shows. At the time, Pierce talked about how his new album embraced a poppier bent but I just thought it rocked like hell. And only in the way that Spiritualized can, blending gospel and droning psychedelia, love, drugs, and religion.

“You broke my heart then you ran away
Some say you got a rotten soul
But I say Janey loves rock and roll”

“Hey Jane” is a prime example of what makes Spiritualized and their work on this album so great. Intense music video aside, this is a track that does not let up for its entirety, nearly nine minutes in all. It’s a rousing, incessant beating heart, pounding and pounding the pavement, both a sprint and a marathon. The guitars keep pace and swirl and roar around the drums, a choir of demons taunt and laugh, and the bass just hums. It threatens disintegration throughout and right in the middle, it does indeed devolve into madness and implodes into an echoing silence. And just when you think it’s over, that maddening rhythm starts back up again. But as opposed to in its first movement, where Pierce seems angry and threatening and mean, the finale sees him uplifting and glorious, even as he’s asking the Jane of the title where she’s gonna go, knowing full well the answer is nowhere. And it all builds to the choir of angels joining him singing the album’s title over and over as an outro.

“Sweet heart, sweet light. Sweet heart, sweet light. Sweet heart, sweet light.”

Yessssss.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2012 list, click here.

Categories
Albums

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.

Categories
Vinyl

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”