Fat Possum Records/Bella Union
Everything Was Beautiful
It was loosely understood that ‘Nothing Hurt’, Spiritualized’s eighth album released in 2018, was to be the project’s last. Skip forward five years and thank goodness that wasn’t true as the Jason Pierce helmed collective ready the release of their ninth album ‘Everything Was Beautiful’.
There’s a perfect union between this brace of releases, from the Morse code blips that signal ‘Nothing Hurt’s end to the same blips that commence the new record’s opening tones. Furthermore, there’s a unification in the two titles which have been borrowed from Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Slaughter House-Five or The Children’s Crusade’ novel. The first line of the book is “everything was beautiful and nothing hurt”; although the Spiritualized album doesn’t chronicle the atrocities of war, the Vonnegut book does or as an Amazon review states “Only those who have fought in wars can say whether it represents the experience well. However, what the novel does do is invite the reader to look at the absurdity of war. Human versus human, hedonist politicians pressing buttons and ordering millions to their deaths for ideologies many can’t even comprehend”. Sounds horribly familiar and pertinent doesn’t it?
‘Everything Was Beautiful’ is maximalism at its most grandiose; Pierce aka J Spaceman, plays 16 different instruments on the record, it was recorded in 11 different studios and the album employed more than 30 musicians, including Pierce’s daughter Poppy, along with brass and string sections. The result is an album that is sonically colossal and one that shines with a life affirming aura. Despite its links to literature centred in conflict, it’s hard not to be swept away by the LP’s swooning, romantic tones and Pierce’s tender wordplay. ‘Everything Was Beautiful’ unfurls to the sound of ‘Always Together With You’s soothing elegance, as J’s croaked vocals reel off simple odes to love and affection. “If you want a rocket ship/I would be a rocket ship for you” and “if you would be my lonely girl/I would be a lonely boy for you” typify the lyrical simplicity of the album’s opener, that scales up to Pierce declaring he’d be a universe, as if to depict there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for the people he loves the most. The song is anchored by an etherealness that gradually peaks with a heady orchestral rush and angelic back vocals. It’s the kind of sound that inflates your heart with the power of human connection. ‘Let It Bleed (For Iggy)’, follows a similar path but with a ying and yang shift in dynamics. Its verses are withdrawn and shrouded in a mournful lament, as our protagonist purrs “laboured over these words for too long/they’re nothing to behold/I wanted it to be special for you/but it’s just a song”. While the track’s core blossoms with an abrupt eruption of cinematic wonder, with brass and strings elevating it into the stratosphere. The same can be said for ‘The Mainline Song’s swirling kaleidoscope of colour, as it’s trippy sci-fi leanings slowly crescendo to something close to ceremonial.
Like with all great Spiritualized albums (tell me you’ve heard ‘Ladies and Gentleman We Are Floating in Space’?), J Spaceman mixes the sophisticated and lavish with the rawness of rock and blues. ‘Best Thing You Never Had (The D Song)’ deploys the grooviest of licks that’s accompanied by a gospel glow. If this kind of thing doesn’t touch you, you’d better check your pulse as you might be dead. The record’s second track is a rich celebration of music, all the way down to a subtle, rebellious forked tongue, as Pierce comments, with a Bob Dylan-esque rasp “how’d you blow that mind when you don’t have a mind to blow”. ‘The A Song (Laid In Your Arms)’ adopts a similar maximum noise approach and album closer ‘I’m Coming Home Again’ is full of slow burning swagger that acts less like the final throes of an album but more like a rebirth, as the band’s lynchpin trills the song’s title repeatedly while soaked in dense yet graceful noise. Albeit the song isn’t bereft of some soul-searching as the lyrics “maybe faith has lost her faith again” and “happiness is not a guarantee” document the fragility of life. For all of ‘Everything Was Beautiful’s splendour, ‘Crazy’s lonesome country twang strips away a decent chunk of its bombast. Enveloped by a gentle sway and mournful guitar moan, we find Pierce in a confessional mood “darling/I’m sorry I must make amends/for messing around with you/we’ve all heard the story/we know how it ends/darling I wish it weren’t true”.
‘Everything Was Beautiful’? With Spiritualized’s new album everything is beautiful. It’s a record of immense power, poise and tenderness, created by a bona fide virtuoso.
Order Everything Was Beautiful by Spiritualized HERE