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Spiritualized Creates a Lighter, More Upbeat Sound with 'Sweet Heart Sweet Light'

Published: Thursday, April 19, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 19:04

Spiritualized

Sweet Heart Sweet Light

(Double Six/Fat Possum)

Grade: B

Once fueled by his love of mind-bending drugs and the guttural aplomb of the Velvets and the Stooges, English guitarist/singer/composer Jason Pierce made Spiritualized sound like an airy embrace of punk primitivism. Its 1997 album, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, became classic for its detached, primeval yawn, dreamily open, smugly complex yet somehow claustrophobic.

Near-death illnesses toward the end of the 2000s left Pierce with a deep voice and a deeper understanding of human frailty, which gave rise to 2008's Songs in A&E and this year's somewhat happier Sweet Heart Sweet Light.

Known for his expanses of psychedelic layering, Pierce has crunched his usual sound into something blunter and peppier this time out. Sweet Heart's melancholy tunes are still grand, and their choruses rousing, even Phil Spector-like, but more tightly wound than before. The ambient hum of "Huh?" is like a man waking from a nightmare sickness, only to find the love of his life ("Hey Jane") and self-realization (the cocky, gospel-ish "I Am What I Am") for his troubles. Some of Pierce's lyrics are dumb, and his observations on immortality are naive, but it's hard not to root for a man who, on the soaring "Life's a Problem" and "So Long You Pretty Things," seeks God's salvation. Amen.

 

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