Jason Pierce and co blast back with album recorded in three weeks
After the spectoresque maximalism of 2001’s Let It Come Down, with its cast of thousands of horn and string players and backing vocalists, Jason Pierce has throttled back somewhat with Amazing Grace. Each song was rehearsed from scratch and recorded in a day, with the minimum of overdubs, production or processing. It’s an album ready made for the road, its ignition switched on, its engine purring before it’s even left the studio.
Pierce has spoken of how enthused and inspired he was by The White Stripes and their return to the basic principle of slinging a guitar around your neck and simply playing. Yet this isn’t really a ‘back to basics’ album in the minimal, faux-authentic sense so in vogue nowadays. Although turned round quickly, it’s very much in the lavish tradition of Spiritualized’s past work, revisiting familiar themes. Yet it also expands and diversifies, musically in particular, with “Rated X”, for instance, on which extreme improv sax player Evan Parker guests, representing a tentative foray into avant-garde realms. The urge for spontaneity hasn’t resulted in a rough, dashed-off album. A lot has been crammed into three weeks.
Amazing Grace kicks in with “This Little Life Of Mine” and “She Kissed Me (It Felt Like A Hit)” (an allusion to/inversion of The Crystals’ “He Kissed Me [And It Felt Like A Hit”]), all honky-tonk Jaggerlust and fast-moving weirs of fuzztones. These are matched by the bluesy swagger of “Never Goin’ Back”, which gathers a moss of anarchic frenzy of guitar, and “Cheapster”, which starts out like a pastiche of The Stones’ “It’s All Over Now” before catching fire.
However, Pierce, as ever, matches a sense of the holy with the unholy in his songs, as the album title suggests. Aretha Franklin’s astounding 1969 rendition of the hymn, from which the album takes its title, is a touchstone, a hymn quoted on “Hold On”, a swaying plea for redemption through love. Meanwhile, the technologically simple but vast spirit of ’60s pop is recaptured on “Oh Baby”, with its gothic, distorted keyboard drone, and the magnificently abject “Lord Let It Rain On Me”. Another Spiritualized album. Another great Spiritualized album.