Sweet Heart Sweet Light
Often the greatest work comes out of the toughest circumstances. That broken relationship, lost job, or life-and-death situation repeatedly fuels art more than anything else because of the insight and stories gained from such traumatizing experiences. Much is the case for Jason Pierce, front man of British psych-rock band Spiritualized, who underwent treatment for a degenerative liver disease since his last album, 2008’s brilliant Songs in A&E. The result of such a life-and-death experience is Sweet Heart Sweet Light, a true triumph of an album that trades off between the unbearable darkness and light at the end of the tunnel in the most frightening of circumstances.
One of the most interesting aspects of Spiritualized music is like the band’s name itself; these pop songs are highly “spiritualized”, jam-packed with religious overtones which is interesting considering Pierce himself has no religious belief himself. Closer “So Long You Pretty Thing”, a nod to Bowie’s “Oh You Pretty Things”, is directed toward Jesus coming from Pierce as clearly a man at the end of his rope. “Help me Lord, Help me Jesus/ Cause I’m tired and lonely/ Help me Lord, it ain’t easy/Cause I’m living with the blind/ I got no reason to believe in anything.” Pierce is not singing from a point of parody but rather believes talking to God in a song shows a certain vulnerability and desperation that only comes with speaking man-to-man with the Maker. Pierce adds a special amount of insight and honesty from his recent struggles on songs like on “Little Girl”, “Mary”, and “Too Late” which burn with a rare sort of vulnerability.
Musically, the album almost perfectly balances extravagant string-laden moments with a healthy deal of distortion. As a sucker for staticky freak out guitar play (see Jack White, St. Vincent), songs like “Headin’ For The Top Now” and “Hey Jane” are simply amazing with chaotic guitar solos mixed in with invigorating and inviting melodies. “Headin’ for the Top Now” quite literally climbs the ladder to musical heaven with its crescendoing melody, growing arrangement, and just the perfect mix of pretty and ugly. “Hey Jane” starts off as what would serve for the first 2.5 mintues as a tight power pop radio single before rising from the ashes at 4 minutes for another 5 minutes (clocking in at 8:52 total) of what is a brilliant trip of emotions and song structure. “Get What You Deserved” pulls some eloquent Eastern strings mixed with disorienting drums and a hypnotic chorus, sounding like George Harrison floating on a magic carpet through your nightmare. “I Am What I Am” has Pierce pulling call and response with a gaggle of gospel singers over entrancing guitar, which sounds like U2 in the Achtung Baby era if they had downed the heavy narcotics that Pierce has.
There are a couple songs (“Freedom”, “Life Is A Problem”), on Sweet Heart Sweet Light that do sound a bit trite and even a little juvenile in delivery (though some is intended to), but for the lion’s share of Sweet Heart, the album reaches rarified air and the heights of music in 2012. Sweet Heart Sweet Light stands as additional proof that the finest art comes out of the most troubling times.
Can’t Miss: “So Long You Pretty Thing”, “Headin’ For The Top Now”, “Get What You Deserve”, “Hey Jane”
Can’t Hit: “Freedom”, “Life Is A Problem”