Rating: 4 out of 5
Spiritualized's eighth album comes twenty-six years after their first, twenty-eight years since the group's inception and six years since their last, 'Sweet Heart, Sweet Light', and yet sounds as fresh and vibrant as if it were a debut. All the hallmarks of a great Jason Pierce album are present on his latest release. There are epic soundscapes, big walls of sound, squalls of noise and blankets of layered harmony.
'And Nothing Hurt' is a high point on the Spiritualized timeline, set to challenge the peak set by their 1997 album 'Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space'. Pierce has threaded together a concept album of sorts that takes us on a real journey to a fictional house. "They're all pop songs", "a drive tape", "to a road trip" Pierce has said. "The concept is simple but Rock n' Roll is at its best when it's simple."
The nine songs on the latest Spiritualized album start off with the gentle introduction of 'A Perfect Miracle'. There's an air of The Smiths, 'Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want', in the jangle of guitars that accompany the laidback, soothing and slightly mournful vocal. The first single lifted off the album, 'I'm Your Man' lifts the mood with its ever-building score and big, breaking soulful choruses.
This second track, 'I'm Your Man', is more characteristic of the feel of the entire album and is a piece of genius in its construct and arrangement from Pierce as is the follow up track 'Here It Comes (The Road) Let's Go'. Both qualify Pierce's assertion that these songs are indeed all pop songs. 'Here It Comes' is full of luscious harmonies and a brilliant brass backing whilst the lyrical flow of the storyline is simply sublime and made to look so easy.
On an album that fuses somewhere in the region of where Embrace, The Eagles and Primal Scream meet it is difficult to wonder how it might work. There are soft rock guitar solos, snatches of gospel, country-infused steel slide guitars, Space Invader synths, 60s sounding organs and trumpet fanfares galore but Pierce has blended each and every sound to near perfection and it works fantastically.
There are still the elaborate, exploratory extentions to some of the tracks on 'And Nothing Hurt', such as the epic ending to 'Let's Dance', or the fre-form jazz cacophony to be found closing out the longest track on the album 'The Morning After', but on the whole you'd have to say that Pierce has reined in his proclivity for indulgence and produced an album that is tighter and more cohesive because of that.
Elsewhere on the album, 'On The Sunshine' is a joyous highlight, expressing a real sense of positivity and spirit through its raucous soundtrack whilst the moody melancholy of 'Damaged' just caresses you with its languid lilt and subtle strings. Concluding the nine track set are the dreamy and reflective musings of 'The Prize' and the melodic waves of sound that Pierce bathes you in on 'Sail On Through'.
'And Nothing Hurt' is at times majestic as it takes you on a fantastical road trip that you will not easily grow tired of taking. The execution of the entire album is flawless from concept through to performance as it blends so many different ideas and uses such a vast and diverse musical palette to get to the end result. In short, it is a triumph of imagination and musical excellence.