by C. Familton
Jason Pierce certainly has a strong vision for his music, whether it be the electric psych drones of Spaceman 3 or the more baroque, narcotic sprawl of Spiritualized. He has a template and he adheres to it with such devotion that every release is always an ‘album experience’ with a sonic flow and thematic cohesion. His latest, Sweet Heart, Sweet Light follows the same working habits and finds him trading in the same sounds and style but this time with a touch more optimism pulsing through its eleven tracks.
Hey Jane, the first single from the album is evident of Pierce’s love for The Velvet Underground in its title and the reference to ‘‘Sweet Jane’ on the radio’ in the lyrics. He imbues the song with a wicked rhythmic chug while telling the tale of a lost love spiraling out of control in a presumed drug haze. The key moment during its nine minutes is the mid track pause before a krautrock groove eases the song back into the frame and carries it to its conclusion. Pierce’s masterstroke is that he is still using his trademark repetition but splits it into two chapters making it even more epic.
The story of Jane is reprised in two other songs, Mary and Little Girl; different people but all with the same tragic femme fatale characteristics and Pierce laying down his sermon to try and save their souls. The theme of redemption and resurrection is a strong one across the album, especially in the context of saving yourself from your own sins. Pierce, as always, heavily populates his lyrics with references to Jesus, God, the ‘light’, shooting up and finding and losing love. Most of the time it works as he marries the grand lyrical gestures with swelling strings, ponderous drums and some wonderful piano playing.
When the album threatens to become all a bit morose Pierce gives us the musically tempestuous Headin’ For The Top Now with its restless, spiteful guitar lashing out with static and distortion. The master of the slow build, Pierce works it over seven minutes before a female voice twists nursery rhymes into yet more tales of wayward street girls Sadie and Mary. The song’s dissonance injects some much needed chaos into the album and acts as an effective palate cleanser for the slow country gospel swing of Freedom.
While Spiritualized match some of their greatest peaks on this album they also throw a few disappointments into the mix. Mary feels like a song that hasn’t found its feet, half-formed and riding on the coat tails of Pierce’s reputation. Life Is A Problem also feels like a retread with its conversation with Jesus. We’ve been here so many times before that it sounds overly familiar and as a result lacks any depth or emotional gravitas. Some balance is found in the closing So Long You Pretty Thing with Romeo Stodart’s (The Magic Numbers) banjo and an optimistic chorus that could have come from Oasis. It leaves the album on an uplifting high, highlighting the notions of faith, hope and determination.
Sweet Heart, Sweet Light is another self fulfilling musical cliche from Pierce but for the most part he adds enough character and depth to the songs to make it feel like another impressive statement. If he had been more ruthless in editing the album it would sit amongst his best but as it stands it is still a strong addition to the Pierce’s grand musical vision.
this review was first published on FasterLouder