Seventh offering from Spiritualized booms

Published 5:19 pm Saturday, April 14, 2012

“Sweet Heart Sweet Light” by Spiritualized plays like a musical roller coaster.

The seventh album from Spiritualized opens on a seemingly unending buildup during the epic and expansive 8:51 long “Hey Jane.” The track plays like a response decades later to the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane.”

It’s one of the most infectious and hectically beautiful tracks you’ll find, as it explodes into an epic outro with multiple guitars, strings, organs and Jason Pierce’s youthful and punky vocals carrying the track.

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“Hey Jane” builds to such a momentous peak that everything after is anti-climactic, but maybe that’s exactly as the band intended.

After opening on a definitive high note, Pierce, also known as J. Spaceman, carries the album through a teeter-totter of emotions.

Much like Leonard Cohen’s “Old Ideas,” Pierce is struggling with undeniable signs of mortality.

The 46-year-old nearly died in 2005 from double-pneumonia, and when he was mixing “Sweet Heart Sweet Light,” he was receiving chemotherapy for degenerative liver disease.

Pierce sings that he probably shouldn’t be alive. He sings about his loved ones. He pleads with God on the album, and he truly wears his heart on his sleeve. No matter how high or low Pierce swings, it’s hard to stop listening.

On the noisy and dirty “Heading to the Top,” Pierce seems to admit he’s stuck in the middle, repeatedly singing “We should be heaving for the top now.”

Despite a career spanning decades, Pierce and his acts haven’t quite pushed forth to being a household name in the music world. Pierce was one of the two leaders of 1980s independent rock band Spacemen 3, a skilled but often overlooked act. Spiritualized, and earlier Spacemen 3, certainly earned cult followings, but they didn’t attain the same fame as other English bands to come out of the 1980s and 1990s.

Spiritualized thrives on Pierce’s unchecked emotions, that teeter on the brink. Even though the lows can be excruciating, especially given Pierce’s recent health history.

The album concludes on a somber, though rejuvenated note. “Life Is a Problem” resembles an extension of the folk song “Chocolate Jesus,” with Pierce singing for Jesus to “please be my automobile” to drive him to heaven.

Pierce moves on to a more pleading and hopeful on “So Long You Pretty Thing,” a track that opens with a duet between Pierce and his 11-year-old daughter. Pierce sings “Help me lord, help me Jesus cause I’m lonely and tired.”

Pierce wears his heart boldly on his sleeve through the album, and he invites the listeners to share the ups and downs along with him.

Pierce and company are an undeniably skilled band, weaving noisy space rock with instantly infectious melodies.

The album is truly a roller coaster of emotions, and it’s a beautiful album if you’re up for the emotional investment.