Fans of Spiritualized have never had to wait this long for an album before. Its been 6 long years since “Sweet Heart, Sweet Light” came out, and there weren't too many that would have counted it amongst their more cherished releases like “Laser Guided Missiles” and “Ladies and Gentlemen...We Are Floating in Space”. Thankfully Spritualized, or more specifically Jason Pierce, returns AND returns to form. Returns may not even be the most appropriate term here; “And Nothing Hurt” feels more like a rebirth, or even a reboot, with Pierce boldly going where he's never gone before, and yet managing to bring us along for a journey that – by some perfect miracle – still feels familiar enough.
The studio has long served as a vessel for the Spiritualized sound. Pierce in the captain's chair, an ever-changing crew at various stations awaiting his command, a cosmic infinity displayed on the monitor and the coordinates set for the distant shores of deep space. And upon hearing this new album the listener may be forgiven for thinking they were getting more of the same. Only this time Pierce is manning a one man craft, has jettisoned off on this journey alone, and has been floating in space with only a laptop for this past couple of years. Interesting image but actually not so far-fetched from reality. This time Pierce has opted for a DIY job in his east London home and, with no great prior knowledge of digital recording, has spent the time relearning his craft essentially from scratch and undergoing a lengthy, laborious and at times infuriating process:
“The biggest thing for me was to try to make it sound like a studio session. But I was new to it all, I didn’t have all the short cuts people use as when they’re making records – I just sat there for weeks…for months…moving every level up bit by bit just to try to get the sounds right.”
From the swirling lullaby opener “A Perfect Miracle”, held together by its backbone of an ever-endearing ukelele – which you can almost picture spawning the surrealistic wall of sound that follows – it is clear that all the painstaking trials and tribulations undertaken by Pierce have indeed yielded great reward. The Wings-esque “I'm Your Man” is another early highlight, with its rugged guitar part accompaniments, and climactic and colourful choruses. Then there's the playful and charming “Let's Dance” which plays out like a figurine of a couple twirling around beneath the stars until its time for the music box to be closed.
“On The Sunshine” is a raucous, Dylan's-gone-electric affair, where imaginary musicians seem to materialise around Pierce, banging all the pots, pans, colanders and chopping boards they can find in mother nature's kitchen, and “The Morning After”, another upbeat number, comes chugging along the tracks until its Revolution 9 style clamorous cacophony of a conclusion comes crashing down. The latter is neither a marathon nor a sprint, but rather a sprinted marathon, and finds Pierce in full swing and at the peak of his new powers of production. Finally the beautiful “Sail on Through” provides a blissful and effortlessly beautiful finale to the album, leaving a lasting impression with the listener that the whole journey has been somewhat plain sailing when, in fact, it was anything but.
So for Spritualized fans it is a time to rejoice and a time to kick back and enjoy some long awaited and triumphant new music. It is also a time for optimism and for further excitement on the road ahead. If “And Nothing Hurt” was driven by a desire to capture the feel and the sound of the recent “Ladies and Gentlemen...” shows, then its success will surely be a catalyst for more of the same and a chance to hear this album played live in all its glory. And now that Jason Pierce, aka J.Spaceman, is firmly in control of his one man craft, with a renewed sense of purpose and more than a few new tricks up his sleeve, perhaps it isn't beyond the realms of possibility that further new Spritualized material will be upon us long before the year 2024!