Listening to a Spiritualized album can be an emotionally exhausting experience. Their seventh album is no different from its predecessors in that respect, however it's also obviously been informed by Jason Pierce's choice in 2009 to revisit landmark album Ladies And Gentleman We Are Floating In Space. Underneath the deliberately obscure cover art of Sweet Heart Sweet Light you'll find a collection of songs that embrace religion, death and hedonism. They're lavishly composed with flourishes of orchestral gravitas and gospel choirs, accompanied by a liberal helping of guitar-based feedback.
That's no bad thing either; because there are few other modern songwriters that could sing; "Jesus won't you be my radio, broadcast direction where I gotta go", without a hint of irony. Yet again Pierce bares his soul through his lyrics, but the honesty he displays means it's difficult to feel that he's re-treading the same ground. Instead it feels like the next chapter in the larger narrative of his life. The addition of some female backing vocals on tracks such as 'So Long You Pretty Things' and first single 'Hey Jane' also help to act as a counterpoint to his hushed but soulful delivery.
Musically Sweet Heart Sweet Light packs a punch, because of the slow building nature of many tracks. In many cases they reveal themselves to be celebratory anthems filled with horns and choirs. The album opens on the short instrumental piece 'Huh?' before exploding into the poppy 'Hey Jane'. It's a track driven along by a bassline reminiscent of the Velvet Underground's 'I'm Waiting For My Man', it's also angry, with Pierce making barbed comments ("You carved your name right into my face") and seems to come to a deafening crescendo halfway through. Suddenly though the bassline resumes and the song resurrects itself into a sing along lamenting the lyrical focus of the song, Jane.
As your heart starts to melt to the sweet melodies that pour out of the speakers Pierce moves into a more soulful mood for 'Little Girl', it's no less effective though, with strings floating around a track that urges you to "Get it on" as Pierce urges you to seize the day. The range of sonic experimentation throughout the record is a testament to the year that was spent mixing the tracks. As with many Spiritualized albums it reveals its true beauty after a number of listens. The standout track here 'Life Is A Problem' is a world weary and laid back reflection on faith and death that relies on a soaring string section to elevate it from the introspective lyrics.
Sweet Heart Sweet Light is somewhat of a companion piece to the commercial peak of Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space, in as much that it sounds similar both musically and lyrically without becoming repetitive. It also deserves its place alongside the former record as a set of intelligent, thought provoking and at times heartbreakingly beautiful songs. While it's not quite as experimental as the previous two Spiritualized albums, it certainly sits with the best of Pierce's work.
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