Amazing Grace seems so familiar, so effortless; who else consistently produces such...
Andrew McGregor 2002
Amazing Grace is supposed to be Spiritualized's garage album and after the first two tracks it seems quite plausible. However, 47 seconds into third track, "Hold On", the rug is pulled as the familiar, fragile beauty of Jason Pierce's voice is revealed with only a piano and acoustic guitar for company.
The rumours weren't without foundation, though, with Jason quoted as admitting "What I liked about The White Stripes was coming up in their slipstream, putting a guitar over your shoulder again and saying, 'Hey, listen to this sound were making'". The album was essentially recorded live, in only three weeks, last October. Pierce would give each song to the band fresh and aim to have it learnt and finished inside a day.
As another commentator has noted, only Jason Pierce could produce an album with 11 brass and string musicians, timpani, a dulcimer and sleigh bells, and call it back to basics. After 13 years and 5 albums, most of you will have decided whether you like them or not and this chapter in the staggering stories of J Spaceman won't change too many minds.
Cynics could argue that Mr Pierce is guilty of being a two trick pony: the coruscating guitar wigouts and the beatific, hymn-like slow songs, but it's worth remembering that two tricks are twice as good as one.
The rattling Hammond that kicks off "Cheapster", lurching in like prime, amphetamine-fuelled Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, is definitely worth your attention. Elsewhere, the self-help therapy continues on pearls like "The Ballad of Richie Lee" with Pierce intoning dolefully "my soul is weak, my eyes are blind", backed by the tragic hum of someone Hoovering in a distant room. "Lord Let It Rain On Me" starts quietly before erupting in the choir-soaked chorus and, just when you think you could happily listen to the glorious refrain for a good fortnight, it's over in 3.5 minutes.
Whether they'll ever produce anything comparable to Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space is unlikely. It's a tough gig improving on perfection. But Amazing Grace seems so familiar, so effortless; who else consistently produces such beautiful work?Like peeling bells as you walk home, sleepless, early on a Sunday morning...It's quite possible that listening to Jason Pierce's spiritual proclamations are the nearest some people will get to church.As always, the sad songs hurt so good.
Review courtesy of 6 Music