Secret Meeting score: 83
by Philip Moss
Jason Pierce aka J. Spaceman has been making intergalactic sounding rock under the Spiritualized banner for nigh on three decades. Six years on from last record, Sweet Heart Sweet Light, he returns with what is rumoured to be the eighth and final chapter in the Spiritualized canon, And Nothing Hurt.
Over ukulele strums, opener, A Perfect Miracle, is equal parts nursery rhyme and lullaby, fluttering in with glittering synths and a vocal melody that feels somehow familiar even on first listen. ‘I’d like to sit around and dream you up a perfect miracle’, Pierce sings, before the distant rolls of percussion, Sigur Rós harmonies and a top line glockenspiel enters to elevate the chorus.
I’m Your Man has also been doing the rounds online for almost three months and comes packed with Stax-horns, a reverb-stacked chorus and a psych-Beatles guitar solo. Likewise, Here It Comes (The Road) Let’s Go again offers up yet more sing-a-long moments, but never drifts into overblown territory. Yes, these are still big songs – at times drifting into the realms of Tom Petty and 70’s American MOR – but there’s something very quaintly understated about their arrangements and Pierce’s soft and considered delivery.
Then when you consider the record was mostly recorded by Pierce in a spare room at his East London home, things start to make sense. This, in all sense and purposes, is a Pierce solo record. The lonely, self imposed isolation that he created is lyrically most evident on Let’s Dance – ‘Though I’m tired just sitting here talking with you, there’s better things a lonely rock n roller can do. The hour is getting late, they’re putting our dreams away, and Lord have mercy on all our thoughts today, I should get away, but I would rather stay and dance.’ And although his sombre tone (which I must say is very much reminiscent of Hope of the States’ Sam Herlihy) may suggest dancing would be the last activity you’d expect him to want to take part in, the song grows from its insular beginnings, gently building into a soundscape filled with whizzing synths, church bells and spacious, melodic strings,. It begs the question, is it an ode to long lost love, or are we, his audience, the recipient to which he speaks?
For those who love a Spirtualized rocker – ala Come Together, Electricity, or even Hey Jane – On The Sunshine very much fits into this bracket as biting guitars and drums, backed by brass and a childlike keyboard line, chug in Krautrock unison. Pierce adds a bit of snarl into his delivery to cut through the distortion with a little more bite than found on the tracks that envelop it. ’If youth is wasted on the young, then raise them on the old!’ adds further fuel to the narrative – emphasised by the lone figure that adorns the album’s cover – that Pierce feels time has caught up on him and that he’s ready to call it a day. While Damage’s line of ‘I feel like I’m floating on a ship out of time’, also suggests he’s out of energy and feels very different to ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in space’, as sung so confidently by the 31-year-old Pierce on his 1997 magnus opus.
Finale, Sail On Through, feels very much like the sister song to A Perfect Miracle, answering a number of the questions posed by the opener, and bookends the the album perfectly – ‘If I could hold it down, I’d sail on through for you’. At just 52, one would hope that any talk of putting Spiritualized to bed is premature and that Pierce has much more sailing to do over coming the years. But after a number of health issues, if And Nothing Hurt does prove to be the final piece in the Spiritualized jigsaw, he’s hanging up the spacesuit on his terms and bowing out on a high.