Spiritualized – ’Sweet Heart, Sweet Light
Buy Sweet Heart Sweet Light
For me, there are just two types of responses people have after listening to Spiritualized – there are those that love them, and then there are those that just haven’t listened properly. Ever since 1997’s seminal Ladies And Gentlemen… We Are Floating In Space, I’ve been firmly in the ‘love them’ camp and have followied Jason Pierce’s subsequent output like a 13-year-old girl chasing One Direction around LA.
Unfortunately, that output has not been as prolific as fanboys like me would hope in recent years – due in most part to Pierce’s ongoing health issues. With Sweet Heart, Sweet Light though, Spiritualized have made it to their seventh album, and Pierce seems to draw on his recent brush with death for its inspiration. I say ‘seems to’, as all Spiritualized albums deal with ‘death’ and ‘the soul’ and ‘Jesus’ and stuff, so it’s hard to say if Sweet Heart, Sweet Light is any different. It definitely feels more intimate and personal though, with gentle and tender moments taking precedence over the massive orchestrated movements Spiritualized are famous for.
Lead single ‘Hey Jane’ is the first hint of Pierce’s more personal approach to songwriting in Sweet Heart, Sweet Light’, which begins life as a straight blues-rock stomp about the ‘troubled’ and ‘rotten’ soul of the titular ‘Jane’, before shifting on its head into a dreamy, drugged-up love song: “Sweet heart, sweet light., sweet heart.. love of my life”.
It makes for a great start to the album and spills nicely into the melodic but more downbeat ‘Little Girl’ – ”Sometimes I wish that I was dead / Cus only the living / Can feel the pain”.
Elsewhere, ’Get What You Deserve’ stands out as a typical spacey, drugged out Spiritualized song, incorporating a bit of an Eastern flavour within the sonic layers. ’Too Late’ is a fragile, lovelorn hymn and ’I Am What I Am’ is an awesome throwback to ’Ladies And Gentlemen…’ era Spiritualized, with its rumbling blues riff, unflinching massiveness – ”I’m the rocket-ship that… takes you to the stars” – and crazy space-jazz breakdowns.
Unfortunately though Sweet Heart, Sweet Light is not all plain sailing. ’Heading For The Top Now’ should be the albums crowning centrepiece, but it sags where it should soar and feels a lot longer than its 8:23 running time. ’Mary’ is another bloated attempt at the atmospheric ballad and ends up as a dreary distraction. Thankfully, ’So Long You Pretty Thing’ soon turns up to give the album a huge, uplifting send-off – with Pierce asking the Lord for help ”cus it’s getting harder” before a massive, lighters in the air chorus/coda: ’So long you pretty thing / God save your little soul / The music that you played so hard ain’t on your radio / And all your dreams of diamond rings / And all that rock and roll could bring you / Sail on, so long’. Like all Pierce’s lyrics, it doesn’t look like much on paper. But when his quiet voice is straining over the swelling orchestra and backing gospel singers it all makes perfect sense and closes the album on a massive high note.
Sweet Heart, Sweet Light might not add any new ideas or musical directions to Spiritualized’s canon – but it is a much welcome return for Jason Pierce and shows there’s still a lot more to come in the future.