Spiritualized - And Nothing Hurt

Spiritualized

And Nothing Hurt

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After a long six years, the old astronaut Jason Pierce has returned with a new album under his moniker Spiritualized, the now classic space-rock outfit known primarily for 1997’s Ladies And Gentleman We Are Floating In Space.

History has been kind to Pierce, allotting him the status of an influencer with both Spiritualized and 80’s outfit Spacemen 3, a collaboration with still notable producer Peter Kember, whose most recent work on Beach House’s 7 received universal acclaim. Clearly, the boys who elevated druggy soundtracks to an art form and inspired everyone from Tame Impala to OK Computer era Radiohead have stood the test of time in this industry. Pierce approaches And Nothing Hurt with the confidence this classic status affords.

The album as such follows the Spiritualized formula, with some interesting new detours. For the most part, the songwriting is firmly rooted in mid 70’s rock, the sound of classic Southern California, treading the line between blues, gospel, soul, and rock. Pierce follows the trend set on 2012’s Sweet Heart Sweet Light by going more pop, with accessible, repeatable melodies and concise song structures.

Everything is more contained here, which can hold the project back occasionally. On the driving “The Morning After” Pierce builds to a Spiritualized staple: Ornette Coleman-style free-jazz; the texture is there, but the feeling of true release is never achieved.

The overall sequence here is debatable too. The full first half of the album breezes by with pretty, well written but flat tunes, before any real catharsis is achieved with “On The Sunshine”. This makes for a slower listening experience, which can be off-putting unless you’re in the mood for some deep breaths in the cockpit before takeoff.

A common complaint lobbed at Pierce and his music with Spiritualized has been his over-reliance on the themes of redemption, addiction, fear of attachment; and a conversation can certainly be had on the positives and negatives of this approach. Do they add an element of “sameness” to his work? Absolutely. But they are topics which any mind consumed by betterment goes back to, so this is both understandable and realistic.

Pierce seems to be aware of his nature, and builds this album’s narrative on second-guessing his own desires to change and take the straight and narrow, stating on “The Prize”, “maybe it’s impossible to know if I should stay here with you dear, or if I should go”, then concluding on the closing track: “If I can hold it down, I’ll sail on through for you”, an admission that his struggles will be lifelong, but he can still be there for those who love him.

And Nothing Hurt is a predominantly chill record with a strong conviction and meticulously crafted production. Every sound matters, every element in the tapestry comes to life and dies out with meaning, the mark of a sonic architect operating at the highest level for more than 30 years.

Nothing here screams 2018, aside from the mix and master, but that is refreshing in a time when jumping on the newest sounds in an attempt to stay relevant seems to be the standard for aging rock acts. This is the living legacy of Jason Pierce, an artist able to come back from a six-year hiatus with nothing new to show off except a beautiful, organic project. It may start slow, and be limited in its experiments, but at its emotional peaks And Nothing Hurt is stratospheric.