Friday, August 23, 2019


The first, I think, post to fully reference this longstanding UK band. Always classified under 'space-rock', a confusing terminology that can embrace everything from Telstar to Pink Floyd, they have been in orbit for nigh on 30 years, arising out of the remnants of Spacemen 3. Jason Pierce, aka J. Spaceman, one of the 2 frontmen of the earlier group, left, taking most of the band with him, together with their signature sound, a heady mix of prolonged and treated chordal notes and drones, allied with a near gospel sensibility in the vocal timbres. Space-rock is also often a lazy shorthand for drug enhanced higher states, and there was always little doubt of this, evidenced freely within the bands output, certainly to begin with.

 1992 saw their first album, 'Lazer Guided Melodies', which, although more overtly 'rock' in it's approach, the only true 'band' album, with solid driving 'motorik' drums, already the seeds of the more majestic and symphonic sound were being sown, with strings and brass augmenting the band. It was 2nd album, 'Pure Phase', that gave greater structure, albeit with also a greater amorphous dreamscape stateliness, to what was becoming indelibly Pierce's trademark. Indeed, the concept of Spiritualised as a band was already beginning to wilt, fast becoming a studio vehicle for Pierce to utilise whomsoever to project his ideas. The Balanescu Quartet, classical mavericks, were drawn in for this record, much as he dismissed his earlier colleagues. I remember buying this at the time, quite struck by the difference from anything else going on. (Confession: I bought it on the strength of the artwork, it just looked enticing, a trick Pierce has always employed.) For the swiftly following 'Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space', this went a step further, with, as well as the Balanescu Quartet, in came the London Gospel Choir, suddenly an obvious step in this otherwise emphatically non-sectarian music. And Dr John, the  voodoo night-tripper himself. (All of these and pedal steel maestro, B.J. Cole, plus a cast of dozens, appear in the track below this paragraph.) This proved to be the breakthrough earlier threatened, being named 1997 album of the year by the influential New Musical Express (NME). The US was also listening, acclaim coming from Rolling Stone and Village Voice. If there any few lingering uncertainties as to the source of Pierce's inspiration, the special editions of this came in a box designed to appear as the packaging of a box of pills, with dosage advice and a foil-sealed lining over the disc itself. Latterly Pierce has tried to deflect the obvious, citing the message to be of music being his drug. OK, right.

A long gap followed before any further work, the intervening time period fraught with internal difficulties with whatsoever members of the rapidly changing band were still involved. Indeed, mirroring the initial formation of the band out of Spaceman 3, most of the band left en masse, forming another band, Lupine Howl, not without some initial acclaim. The 2 Spiritualised albums of the first half of the 90s took further the gospel sound and influence ahead of yet another hiatus. Perhaps bringing home all the rumours to roost, in 2005 Pierce collapsed, nearly dying on at least one occasion and spending much of the time in hospital, the experience perhaps the stimulus to another game changer, 2008's 'Songs in A/E', A/E (accident and emergency) being the UK parlance for E.R. Even if much of the material was written earlier, within the recording come distinct echoes of the morgue and, as a result the gospel (and blues) hues have a more positive and even a truly spiritual basis. Go figure the song below, old bluesman in space being the vibe offered to me. With space being perhaps that corridor between this world and the next.

Still far from well, with tales of experimental chemotherapy for a never quite specified liver disease, subsequent output has been slow and scant. 'Sweet Heart Sweet Light' in 2012 was deigned to show a poppier side, ahead of last years 'And Nothing Hurt', very much a return and reprise of earlier motifs, massed choirs and string quartets, very much a companion piece to 'Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space'. This is the lead track:

'The Slide Song', which references this piece, comes from 'Pure Phases'. I think it encapsulates the whole Spiritualised sound and ethos. If you don't like it, well, you won't like much else. So what does it all mean? And why Slide? The lyric seems to suggest a regret, an inability to change or make amends. A slide into where he was going, perhaps, but when all is said and done, does it really matter? I just slide into the music.

Slide in, yourself?