Spiritualized: Sweet Heart Sweet Light Review (Three Takes)
It can be difficult to gain a balanced perspective on an album after reading a single summary of the music. Bias can tilt a review, as can personal taste, history and just about everything else that is unique to the person writing it. So in an effort to offer an expanded perspective in such a medium, here are three reactions, three impressions, three Takes on Sweet Heart Sweet Light by Spiritualized.
It’s always taken me a long time to get into Spiritualized albums. I never really “got” the band until I saw them live in 2008. Though I loved Spacemen 3, Jason Pierce’s more recent project didn’t do it for me for many years. Despite the band being perhaps one of the least interesting live acts on the planet, somehow hearing them live was what eventually changed my mind. Still, it took me many listens to warm up to the band’s most noted recorded works, namely Let it Come Down, Ladies and Gentleman… and A&E. Listening to each, I was always struck by the fact that for every Spiritualized song that I loved, there were at least three or four that I thought were pretty unremarkable. However with repeat listening somehow I was only able to recognize the greatness a little bit at a time. It was an effort that required discipline but one that also generally paid off in the end. I feel as if I have only just begun the process for Sweet Heart Sweet Light. My impression right now is that there about three songs I really enjoy, and a bunch of other stuff that sounds kind of boring. I imagine that after I listen to it enough, I will eventually begin to appreciate it more and more (just as I have past Spiritualized albums). Until that day though my score for the record will remain steadfastly in the average range.
Looking at the album artwork for Sweet Heart Sweet Light, the 7th record from Spiritualized, your first word about it might be what’s on the album’s cover, the word “Huh?” Regardless of the album art however interesting or stupid it may look to you, the proof is in the music itself that Spiritualized has put together, and starting with the numerous movements involved in “Hey Jane,” this picks up definitely where Songs in A&E left off. Then the melancholic yet rhythmic awesomeness of “Little Girl” sets in, and the melancholy continues on with “Get What You Deserve,” and it proves what’s so great about Spiritualized. They’re constantly at an endless bout of experimentation, sweeping instrumental changes over Jason Pierce’s amazing vocals, that end up giving tunes like “Too Late” and the acoustic guitar backed “Freedom” legs to walk out these really great pieces of work that dazzle throughout the 60-minute opus. Spiritualized is still one of those rare bands that still manages to get better and better with time, regardless of their line-up changes.
On their first full-length in four years, Spiritualized hit many of the same notes they did on their last, Songs in A&E, with gospel-inflected pop melodies arranged with electric guitars playing in front of classical orchestration and choir. And what worked on that album works on this album. However, many of the songs on Sweet Heart Sweet Light lack the punchy concision that characterized Songs in A&E. Half of the songs here run somewhere between 6 and 9 minutes, and what they all have in common is that if they had been cut to 3 minutes, they would have been great songs. As they are, they feel like 3 minute songs that just keep going and going . . . until you hit the skip button.