Spiritualized - And Nothing Hurt

by Tim Sentz Rating:8 Release Date:2018-09-07
Spiritualized - And Nothing Hurt
Spiritualized - And Nothing Hurt

We’re at the end of an era. With the release of his eighth album And Nothing Hurt under the Spiritualized guise, Jason Pierce a.k.a. Jason Spaceman, will retire the project – assuming a tour will follow for a few years. After nearly 30 years, Spiritualized has taken us to the far reaches of space, and soundtracked these expeditions through the galaxy with free jazz, gospel, lo-fi, psychedelia, shoegaze, and garage rock: sometimes, all within the same disc.

The last time we heard from Pierce was on 2012’s wonderful Sweet Heart, Sweet Light, an album that lived up to its title with epic arrangements that incorporated all of his influences. The album followed a sorrowful time for Pierce as he’d been ailing from liver disease throughout most of its production, and over the years Pierce has been plagued with various illnesses. None of which have anything to do with the end of Spiritualized, according to Pierce, but with exhaustion creatively.

So, it’s safe to assume that the swan song of And Nothing Hurt, should add some form of finality to the project. The album opens with his usual galactic feeling, while quietly strumming his ukulele as if we’re on a beach on Mercury watching the sun explode. One thing Pierce has always been grand at doing is writing heartfelt lyrics, and “A Perfect Miracle” does so effectively. “Darling, you know I’m sorry. I won’t get to see you this week. Lately, I’ve found, I don’t need you around,” he admits. The exhaustion is felt in his delivery. He’d like to continue this adventure, but it’s run its course.

A lot of And Nothing Hurt combines the tools Pierce used on previous works, such as the calling card of Spiritualized and Spacemen 3. It makes for a comforting listen, as these tracks could be cut up, and randomly scattered throughout his work – “I’m Your Man” would fit snugly on Sweet Heart, Sweet Light with its larger-than-life guitars and massive horn sections, orchestra-infused like album closer “So Long You Pretty Thing.” This isn’t Pierce charting new territory, it’s a victory lap. He’s stated that if there’s nothing more to do, why keep doing the same thing. And while he doesn’t open new crevices, what he’s presented is still lovingly given.

“Here It Comes (The Road) Let’s Go” is the reliable radio single, with its almost folky guitars, juxtaposed with his otherworldly mixing and operatic chorus. Six years in the making and Pierce knows it’s his last statement to share and he won’t waste it. And Nothing Hurt is a goodbye, an album for those who were with him from the start. The first three tracks represent a more subdued Spiritualized, for those who appreciated his later work’s melody. These aren’t bangers, they’re more his version of ballads, and they work because he puts care into them.

It’s not all perfection, “Let’s Dance” is a bit reductive to his personality. Musically, it works, but his lyrics are a bit too mopey. It’s a minor misstep in the scheme of And Nothing Hurt, as he rebounds with “On the Sunshine” the most throwback track he’s done in quite some time – recalling Ladies and Gentleman We’re Floating in Space’s “Electricity” and “Come Together.” Again, victory lap, it sounds a bit recycled, though it’s permissible due to this conclusion. Some musicians can switch between genres effortlessly, but that’s never been Pierce. His brand of space rock has evolved, but his knack for composing the most ambitious piece of work within his wheelhouse will always outweigh the possibility of repetition.

And Nothing Hurt doesn’t compare with his previous work much. With each release, Spiritualized was able to improve upon so much. Laser Guided Melodies was an extension of his Spacemen 3 work, and each subsequent release showed further and further evolution. And Nothing Hurt doesn’t have any of that, and it doesn’t really need it. If anything, And Nothing Hurt is a padding or a reinforcement of those classics. “The Morning After” continues the story of Jane from “Hey Jane,” and shows off Pierce’s desire to boogie down, featuring an almost big-band like vibe. It’s groovy, it’s fun, it’s Pierce writing hooky pop by throwing caution to the wind. That’s what And Nothing Hurt is mostly coming from. If he’s going to go out, he’s going to go out on his terms, with an album that might come off as a bit too self-gratifying, but services the needs of his fans at the same time.

And Nothing Hurt isn’t a disappointment, but it also isn’t the spectacle one would expect from Pierce at this point in his career. It’s thoughtful, and it purposely exists as an almost Thank You note to his fans. Musicians will come and go, they have for years. When David Bowie left, only he knew it. Pierce is doing it all on his own terms, giving everyone time to grieve, but ultimately leaving us with a collection of spritely laced endearments – something few have the chance to do. And Nothing Hurt works because of this, if taken in as that formal goodbye: “Sail on Through” informs “I came on down, I gave it all, you know the best love lies before the fall,” before later allowing the frequencies to trail off into the abyss. We’ll miss you, Pierce.

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