TUESDAY, APRIL 17, 2012 |
Posted by: Joe Puglisi
While there is no denying it's adventurous and neat-sounding in the sonic sense, Spiritualized's latest LP fails to fully engage the emotional core. Where previous well-received records have been cool aesthetically AND wrenched the heart right out of our chest, the highs and lows of Jason Pierce's songs occasionally feel like plain yogurt, despite impeccable production values and an insufferably cool outer shell. It's as if the rotating core of Spiritualized has left the band's purpose a bit hollow, garnering a solid album of what sounds like a bunch of famous musicians writing songs as a fake band invented for some other narrative. That being said, it has its moments. It's an out of body experience-- that's not necessarily a bad thing, but it isn't always a good thing either.
This confusion makes sense, at least in the context of Pierce's life. His recent bout with liver disease and the prescription drug-induced haze he found himself in while mixing the record can (and should) be taken into account. Sweet Home was built and shaped in the six months Pierce was virtually housebound after experimental chemo treatment. Much of the disjointedness feels incidental. But it should have been clear from Pierce's deception of the press (mailing out copies before he was actually finished mixing) and the first single "Hey Jane" (a wandering, yet complacent nine minutes long) that we'd be dealing with a difficult personality. "Hey Jane" starts off exciting and brisk, but the pace grows to belie the lack of development in later minutes. Slow burners like "Freedom" seem to be nudging satire of early '70s acid-rock, not perpetuating their best application in today's world. But songs like "I Am What I Am" add the sizzle necessary to keep our ears in it, even if it occasionally feels forced. The stark beginning of "Mary" really pops, even though it doesn't quite finish as strong, and it seems that the erratic noisy beat-less instrumental breakdown surfaces whenever Pierce wants extreme drama and doesn't want (or know how) to create it through melodic contour. That's a tough quality to put on a pedestal in today's recorded music industry, but at the very least it's still a joy to experience.