Everything Was Beautiful
ABOVE THE CURRENT
Few songwriters can make loneliness and despair feel as warm and blissful as Jason Pierce. It’s something he’s done with Spiritualized ever since forming the band over 30 years ago in Rugby, England. Indeed, Spiritualized’s grand, sweeping, orchestral songs feel like they celebrate sadness as much as they sound like the universe weeping—layers of vocals and instrumentation building up on top of, and washing over, each other as if tapping into the rhythm of life itself. Somehow that inverts what should be the obvious emotions of Pierce’s songs, making them joyous experiences instead of maudlin ones, comforting odes instead of weary laments.
While that’s always been a Spiritualized trademark—1997’s benchmark Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space in particular thriving off that paradox—that conflict is in full force on this ninth full-length. Essentially a companion record to 2018’s And Nothing Hurt, Everything Was Beautiful inverts that famously over-tattooed line from Slaughterhouse-Five and completes the circle—musically and thematically—begun a few years ago by that record. Which is to say that these seven songs also hark back, in sound and emotion, to the isolation of Ladies and Gentlemen while also offering a contemporary yet simultaneously anachronistic soundtrack to a world that’s become even more fucked in the four years since its prequel was released.
That’s captured perfectly by the unsettling and unsettled strains of final track “I’m Coming Home Again,” a lilting, gentle lullaby that also sounds like nails scraping out the inside of your veins. It’s distressing and nightmarish, dissonant and oddly threatening, yet it’s also, somehow, soothing. True to its title, it feels like home. Meanwhile, opener “Always Together with You” is a tender outpouring of devoted—and probably unconditional—love that feels like one last hug from the person that broke your heart, while “Best Thing You Never Had (The D Song)” is the kind of brilliant, anachronistic, woozy psychedelia that The Brian Jonestown Massacre wishes they could write, all melancholic cacophony and organized chaos.
“Let It Bleed (For Iggy)” takes the tempo down again as it explores art’s inadequacy for conveying feelings (and ironically so, given how moving it is) while “Crazy” is a fragile country-style ballad that delves deep into that romantic lacuna Pierce is so good at filling, even if it’s only with emptiness. Then there’s “The Mainline Song,” which offers a glimpse of joyful dystopia through its industrial gospel vibes, and “The A Song (Laid in Your Arms),” which is an unrestrained explosion of unfettered emotion. It all comes together to create one of the best Spiritualized albums Pierce has ever made. Given that he apparently plays 16 different instruments on it, which were recorded at 11 different studios, and employed the talents of over 30 musicians, he should be very pleased indeed.