Spiritualized - Everything Was Beautiful (Bella Union)

Spiritualized – Everything Was Beautiful (Bella Union)

Following the acclaimed reissue of the band’s first four albums last year comes Everything Was Beautiful. Now ninth on their roster, lockdown came like a bird in the hand for this artist, Jason Spaceman comments that “I felt like I’d been training for this my whole life,” – like a fondness for isolation reframing this as a “beautiful solitude”. With a world that became “full of birdsong and strangeness and no contrails”, this album, on which, he plays 16 different instruments, that was mixed at eleven different studios and at his home. Employing 30 musicians and singers, including his daughter Poppy, it rings as loudly as do the bells & chimes that were used from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

Hailing from Shakespeare’s County perhaps J Spaceman is of an age where you can’t help looking back. So calling it everything was beautiful” is certainly familiar. What about the album, though, does it wallow, or does it shine? Introduced with a simple morse-coded message, led by the words that echo the album’s title “Everything was beautiful…”, ‘Always Together With You’ begins proceedings. As a single, they released it last November, although the track originally came into being in 2014 when it was first released in demo form. This is a fine Flagstaff for the album, however unintentionally. But considering this, maybe the artist’s perfect love song, as the chorus rings out “always together with you,” It’s early on, but let’s dig a little deeper and find out if my earlier praise is fitting.

Second up is ‘Best Thing You Never Had’, surf-rock from this spaceman, as the track heads into the stratosphere at such a pace, as Pierces’s vocal howl proceeds “Going to be a long ride down/Best thing you never had.” Here it would seem lyricism displays reverse psychology, with drug referencing clearly on display, in a laid-back tune with a late ’60s feel. By the time ‘Let It Bleed (For Iggy)’ comes into view, this contains the feel and strength of a Spiritualized live performance, with a tune that rides the waves, phasing in and out as the words are laid before us, “Lay down and, lay down, lay down and let it bleed.” With this proceeding to fade, the country injection of ‘Crazy’ is now offered, as a sleepy ballad in the vein of Tammy Wynette peeps out, on this occasion with backing vocals by Nikki Lane.

As the album fires its rockets toward its final destination, so does the intensity of what’s on offer. Apparently, this final piece of the recording process involved adding clarinets to the vocals to “give it all a proper sense of chaos.” The first of these numbers is the ‘The Mainline Song’, a number that was inspired by the proceedings that unfolded in D.C., as it became clear the Trump presidency was to end. A train announces its coming, with the wail of a horn, as the signal rings its warning bell. A harmonica picks up the pace ”Keep your voices down/Everyone is asleep uptown/And I wanted to know if you wanted to go to the city tonight.” A call to the disaffected and as this is brought to a close the pace increases as ‘The A Song (Laid In Your Arms)’ comes into view. “These are the words/They’re as old as the hills/Cooked on a diet of mushrooms and pills/One man’s crime is another man’s thrill and we’re gone,” and the Jason Pierce those of us who were around during that post-rave period, that saw Spaceman 3 rise to an alternative haze is back. This number bears elements of Julian Cope circa Peggy Suicide and all that made 1991’s Recurring such an indie hit. I can even hear shades of Genesis P-Orridge and the acid-house of Psychic T.V.

I want to clarify, I’m not suggesting there is any imitation here, just that the artist has taken influences and reshaped these in his own form. This contains the euphoria of the party 30 years ago and it’s wonderful to be back there again. This time a little older and wiser, but I guess this remains to be seen. Rounding off proceedings with the folk-tinged ‘I’m Coming Home Again’, in a number I might not have been expecting following the earlier diet we had been on. This is a comedown, that with a younger head on these shoulders, I might’ve been expecting to go out with a bang, rather than the somewhat downbeat patter. Although in our fifties, we’re perhaps not going to be “Coming home again” as the words in this number play out. We all have to grow up someday, although I feel this Spaceman might have a few more missions left in him yet. As the album starts another cycle on my player, I’m left marvelling at the journey I’ve been on and am more than happy to take this ride again and again, and again, well you get the picture.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.