Music Reviews
Amazing Grace

Spiritualized Amazing Grace

(Sanctuary) Rating - 8/10

Yes, I suppose the question you'll be asking is - cf. the equally tardy review of BRMC to be found elsewhere on this site - why so late? And why at all? The 3 EP format Spaceman and his pals adopted for this album, allied to the fact that it's been out for ages means that doubtless anyone who's interested has got it, heard it, loved it or sold it down the record exchange. But occasionally funny things happen to albums, and that's what happened here. Something similar occurred with The Cooper Temple Clause's debut - savaged by our editor, President Coleman in his wild youth. I heard the talk, believed the hype, listened and absolutely hated it. So much so I buried it deep in the crap pile for over a year. This time round, begrudgingly spurred by the second album frenzy, I returned to it and was strangely compelled. Like I say, funny things albums.

So the admission is that I hold a huge admiration for Pierce and his never very merry men, a band I've always felt, alongside Cornershop, to be one of the true standard bearers of believable mainstream music in this country, and infinitely more interesting that pseudo-experimental competitors such as Blur. So, eagerly I snuck down to Rhythm Records, picked up this beautifully packaged little nugget on release (more or less), took it home, and...nothing. Only now, months later, have I been able to come up with a damn word to say. Why, I can't say. Maybe I needed to live with the thing - although that's far too pretentious, even for this reviewer. Maybe the opening stomps were too surprising even for the forewarned and forearmed. Maybe other music just got in the way.

All of which is odd, I suppose, because there is absolutely no doubt that this is an important album. Lazer Guided Melodies was for many the album of the early 1990s (fuck that's a long time ago...), while 1997's Ladies and Gentleman We Are Floating In Space was a moment-defining record. The biography aside, Spaceman has always been big news. But Let it Come Down (2001) was for some a disappointment - I loved it - perhaps too choral, pompous and grandiose, perhaps, like the latter days of Spacemen 3, too driven by Jason's notoriously singular vision.

The track on Let It Come Down that most seemed to rile the critics was the opener, On Fire, a rowdy barroom brawl of a track at odds with the rest of proceedings. With hindsight, though, the cut provided something of a blueprint for the nastier, gutsier sound that dominates large chunks of this LP. Pierce has adopted a more sparse approach to recording, cutting tracks in fewer takes, often leaving in feedback and bum notes. Critics have spoken of this as a garage album, and while there is a bluesier, at times frankly raucous feel - Cheapster is a case in point - there are still 49 separate instruments (yes, I counted them) and an orchestra at work here, and there are still all the flourishes and emotional continents that make this, quite distinctly, a Spiritualized album. Hold On and Oh Baby are wonderful tunes that would sit with ease on Ladies and Gentlemen, true music of the spheres. Meanwhile the new space-muse is encountered on feedback-fuelled rockouts like Never Goin' Back and She Kissed Me. It doesn't always work, though. I'm still not convinced by This Little Life of Mine, and I can't help but feel that Lay It Down Slow is the nearest we've come to Spiritualized-by-numbers. But the rest, largely split between old-school/new school is as good as anything they've done. And in difference to many Delta stomp imitators, when Pierce rocks out, he does so with a breadth and scope unfound in most of his competitors.

So, after all this time, I find myself saying exactly what I thought I would say. Another fine album by Spiritualized. It cements their position as one of the most important and engaging bands we have. Anything else?