Throughout his career in Spiritualized, Jason Pierce has tackled a pretty broad range of genres, from epic space rock to blistering garage rock, blues and gospel. Yet Spiritualized’s best albums are those that manage to combine all of these elements into one, most notably their 1997 masterpiece Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space. However, most recent effort Songs In A&E, while not as overwhelming as that album’s 70-plus minutes of sprawling space opera, is another solid collection of songs that finds Pierce playing upon a diverse range of sounds while staying true to a core of strong songwriting.
Split into varying sections divided by tracks titled “Harmony 1,” “Harmony 2,” et al., Songs In A&E is most definitely a big record. Spanning 18 tracks, six of which are the aforementioned “Harmony” segues, A&E contains some of the best songs Pierce has penned in a decade. First actual song “Sweet Talk” is a soulful piano ballad that sets a majestic stage for the eerily bluesy “Death Take Your Fiddle” and the infectious hooks of “I Gotta Fire.” Meanwhile, single “Soul on Fire” is a stunning example of Pierce’s symphonic balladry, backed by a rich string arrangement and female vocalists. From there, Pierce tackles Dylanesque blues-rock on “Yeah Yeah,” massive noise rock sludge on “You Lie You Cheat,” atmospheric country on “Don’t Hold Me Close” and even seven minutes of sprightly pop on standout “Baby I’m Just a Fool.”
Pierce covers a lot of ground on Songs In A&E, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to longtime fans. But by maintaining a consistently evolving, diverse array of sounds, Pierce always manages to deliver a fair share of surprises within each album. Though this isn’t the most far out Spiritualized album, the most elaborately arranged or the most experimental, it’s easily one of the best.
Mercury Rev – See You On the Other Side
Flaming Lips – The Soft Bulletin
Slowdive – Pygmalion