Spiritualized - Everything Was Beautiful review: A meticulous, extraordinarily ambitious triumph

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 (Sarah Piantadosi)
(Sarah Piantadosi)

The packaging is the most obvious reference point: a medical design which in its £70 vinyl form comes with eight pieces of card you can pop out and fold into pill boxes. Then there’s the beginning: a female voice saying the album title (in this case Spiritualized main man Jason Pierce’s daughter Poppy) and a series of astronautical bleeps. There’s a lot on the ninth Spiritualized album that recalls Pierce’s greatest moment, the 1997 album Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in Space, which also came in a foil pill package and sounded like it was being broadcast from another galaxy.

While Nineties music in the UK seems destined to be recalled for the Britpop Wars and little else, we might do better to remember bands like Radiohead, The Verve and Spiritualized launching rock music into a more expansive place in the latter part of the decade. Pierce could have faded into cult obscurity by now, age 56, and especially deserved a long lie down after nearly dying from double pneumonia in 2005, but instead he’s as meticulous as ever and showing extraordinary ambition on his latest.

It’s only seven songs long, but four hover around the six/seven minute mark and the closer, I’m Coming Home Again, weighs in at 10. Pierce plays 16 instruments himself and there are over 30 other musicians involved. It was originally attended to be a double album, coupled with his 2018 release And Nothing Hurt (the two titles together, Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt, make up a line from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five) but there’s more than enough here to explore.

In fact, at a time when the first four Spiritualized albums are being reissued in deluxe vinyl editions, Everything Was Beautiful feels like a greatest hits round-up of Pierce’s most appealing talents. Always Together With You is a twinkly, gentle love song that builds to a Phil Spector wall of sound complete with girl group backing vocals. Mainline begins with the evocative clanging of a passing American goods train and drives propulsively forwards, repeating its simple refrain in subtly different ways and sweeping the listener up in an irresistable swelling of sound. There’s a heartbreaking country song with the simple title Crazy, and a wild krautrock freakout, The A Song (Laid in Your Arms).

If there was any more music here, that box on the cover would burst. Far into a long career, this is another triumph.

(Bella Union)

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