Obviously Jason Pierce is not much of a spaceman anymore. He is still able to produce some mighty guitar racket as well as a captivating interstellar groove, but try listening to Lazer Guided Melodies after Sweet Heart Sweet Light. Certainly not as radical as the transition Mercury Rev made between Yerself Is Steam and Deserter’s Songs, but the difference is glaring enough. For starters, Sweet Heart Sweet Light is much more satisfying melodically. Whether it is a strong melody that you need from Spiritualized or a dreamy spaced-out jam is a question well worth asking yourself before stepping any further.
Oddly, Pierce’s main strength as a songwriter lies in his ability to write a simple tune. Which is not in itself an outstanding achievement. No, the exciting bit is that few can make this simplicity sound so monumental and so majestic. Wrap it all up in dreamy atmosphere and grand, soaring orchestration, and you get yourself a modern-day classic on your hands.
The centerpiece is of course the opening (well, technically there’s also a brief instrumental intro) ‘Hey Jane’. Hopefully you’ve seen the video and have long fallen in love with that intense Velvetsy groove and sweeping backing vocals. The track’s title could be a double pun on two of the most celebrated songs in rock music history, ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Sweet Jane’. The Velvet Underground reference oozes from just about every second of the song, but surely that lengthy coda has something to do with The Beatles’ famous singalong craze. Another rockier number includes the effective ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’-styled romp of ‘Heading For The Top’ (another second and I’ll get carried away and start telling you that the album’s title is a thinly veiled reference to White Light/White Heat…).
But it is mostly about Pierce’s quieter, more sentimental and accessible side. Maybe nothing here touches the transcendental brilliance of ‘Spread Your Wings’ (Pure Phase, 1995), but strings-drenched confections like ‘Little Girl’ and ‘Too Late’ are so disarmingly simple and unforgettable, you’ll start singing and whistling and humming in no time. Or take the sweeter-than-cotton-candy anthem called ‘Freedom’ that does teeter on the edge of saccharine, but with a chorus so charming and euphoric you’ll drop your sarcasm and join in. And speaking of euphoric, how about that coda of the epic closer, ‘So Long You Pretty Things’, surely Pierce’s most Wagnerian moment so far?..
Lyrically, it’s all quite familiar. Our patience is tested slightly on ‘Life Is A Problem’ (“Jesus please be my bullet and gun, shoot all the sinners down every one…”, etc.), but otherwise it’s all lovely and loving stuff. Songs In A&E without the depression. Sweet Heart Sweet Light is an album of sweet, sweet rock’n’roll anthems. Also, Pierce should definitely get some sort of award for that cover…
Released on 16th April 2012 by Double Six Records