Review : Spiritualized - Sweet Heart Sweet Light
PopMattersPierce has said Sweet Heart Sweet Light is influenced by middle-period albums from artists who are beyond their youthful years and making “these great pop albums, these great collections of songs that you play and in the end you say, ‘What a beautiful album.’” Though there’s no shortage of beauty or orchestral decoration on Sweet Heart Sweet Light, the influence of a middle age precipice on those pop trappings gives the album a rare and yes, spiritual, power.
Closing track “So Long You Pretty Thing” opens in the least cynical way imaginable: a duet with a child, a technique also used effectively on Swans’ My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky (2010) and more recently on Damien Jurado’s Mariqopa (2012). In “So Long You Pretty Thing”, Pierce sings, “Help me Lord / help me Jesus … Help me Lord / help me Father,” praying for sustaining belief. After the singer’s attention to his soul has run its course, the song transitions into an extended chorus that plays like a twilight for vile bodies. Pierce claims Sweet Heart Sweet Light is the kind of pop album a singer makes when youth is well behind him, and that might be true, but the album’s search for deliverance is timeless and ultimately uplifting....full text
Chicago TribuneThe lyrical themes should be familiar: Drugs, death, God, redemption. They’re orchestrated into musical dramas that ebb and flow for six, seven, eight minutes at a time. Pierce is a savvy producer; no matter how dense the arrangements – strings, horns and choirs piled atop guitar, bass, drums and keyboards – he leaves a clear path for the melody. Amid the chaos of strafing guitars and wailing saxophones, he gives us something to hum or sing along -- the amiable bounce of “Hey Jane,” the little duet with his 11-year-old daughter that opens “So Long You Pretty Thing,” the nursery rhyme sung by female voices at the close of “Headin’ for the Top Now.”
Pierce collapses despair and ecstasy; he’s the weary, strung-out narrator who sees life only in extremes. He wants to be “saved” but doesn’t see how. Self-pity elbows into the mix; “I won’t get to heaven … I won’t see my mother again,” he laments on “Life is a Problem.” There’s nothing sappy or draggy about the music, though. It can be crushing and corrosive, with just a hint of sweetness and hope. That tension suits Pierce. No wonder he stays so resolutely on the same path....full text
PitchforkSweet Heart Sweet Light fits that description. Yet it's not a drastic transformation as much as an acute refinement. Pierce is still using large orchestras and choirs to take his Robert Johnson blues way past the crossroads, to vistas that are as endless as they are empty. He's still singing his own rock'n'roll gospel: Jesus, fast cars, girls named Jane and Mary, pimps, death, fire, freedom, and God all show up, giving life to Pierce's alternate-universe Eden, inhabited by Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, self-loathing, and a spitty syringe. He's still his own genre-- this tiny voice elevated by the super-church-sized arrangements in his head. "I want to make music that catches all the glory and beauty and magnificence, but also the intimacy and fragility, all within the space of the same 10 seconds," Pierce has said. It's a mad goal. But it's also an inherently intriguing and universal one, just as ancient myths or Biblical tales can be. Pierce isn't religious, but he uses Christian language and figures as a thematic shorthand. "As you have a conversation about Jesus, you know you're talking to him about how it is to be fallible and question yourself and your morals," he told me. "When I sing, 'Help me, Jesus,' you know I'm not asking for help fixing the fucking car." Such an all-or-nothing attitude is risky, but that's the whole point....full text
BBCThe album’s lush, generous production is in keeping with Pierce’s reputation as a bona-fide behind-the-desk obsessive (an audiophile face-off between Pierce and Kevin Shields would be tough, albeit enjoyable, to call). His perfectionism pays off on tracks like I Am What I Am, which crackles with a fierce energy that holds its primal atmosphere together amid a growing cacophony of spasming blues and sassy backing singers.
In conclusion, then: it’s a Spiritualized album, and a great one....full text
GuardianLong-time Spiritualized users will be familiar with the band's repeat prescription. Most of their works will feature some gospel choir and a little string section; the packaging might look a little medical. At one point or another, Rugby-born, east London-dwelling Jason Pierce – to all extents and purposes Spiritualized – will invoke Jesus in a way that references gospel music. Yep, here he is on "Life is a Problem" being compared to first, a radio set and soon after a car.
Sweet Heart Sweet Light is another one of these perfectly serviceable Spiritualized albums. Its highlight is probably "Headin' for the Top Now", which still packs in considerable derangement. Pierce's prowess at harnessing the ineffable is still palpable in the music. "I Am What I Am" starts with a rattle of chains and tambourines; a guesting Dr John provides the voodoo. The orchestrations throughout are elegant; "Get What You Deserve" fades in heroically, laden in fuzz....full text
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