These days, it is wise to be frightened when you hear of your favorite artist entering the studio with: a) Fred Durst, b) a huge blotter of acid, c) grand plans of recreating The Beatles (blasphemy), or d) 100-piece orchestras. Pursued singly or combined, these ideas are currently considered recipes for disaster.
One exception is Jason Pierce (a.k.a. J. Spaceman), Britain's highly intriguing front man of a modern rock group known as Spiritualized. I'm not making any accusations of drug use, but Mr. Pierce does come from the legendary Spacemen 3. These guys were surely none too shy about their use of narcotics for much of their recording days, as evidenced by their album titled Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs to. In a perfect example of how addictive the British music tabloids have gotten, most recent articles on the band have focused more on J. Spaceman's managerial techniques and ex-girlfriends rather than the band's recording output. In a much-publicized fit, Mr. Spaceman fired his entire backing band after they had done several albums together. Two of his ex-band members formed Lupine Howl, whose summer-released album received little acclaim. And back in 1997, J. Spaceman was rumored to have had a relationship with Kate Hadley, his ex-keyboard player who is now the wife of Richard Ashcroft.
Other stories of recording with an orchestra of one hundred certainly didn't seem to excite fans, which were desperate for the follow-up to 1997's highly regarded psychedelic masterpiece, Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in Space. J. Spaceman certainly had a lot to prove this time around...if he cared about this sort of stuff.
You can almost see J. Spaceman shrug off all of the attention and pressure with a swift hand over his shirt. J. Spaceman is much more concerned with his music, and Let it Come Down is his finest album yet. Other Spiritualized albums focused on psychedelic blues and strayed from conventional pop structures, but Let it Come Down is the best of every world. Part British pop, part modern gospel, part shoe-gazer rock, Let it Come Down contains everything that Ladies and Gentleman... hinted at, but never fully reached.
Tracks like "Out of Sight" and "I Didn't Mean To Hurt You" display the grandness of previous Spiritualized ideas, but they come together like never before. Soaring strings and the finest lyrics of Spaceman’s career resonate throughout, giving the listener something truly special. Each song builds itself up and crashes itself right down. And these are indeed actual "songs." Unlike Radiohead, and all of the other bands trying to make "important music" today, Spiritualized never show an ounce of effort. They are one of the most unique and versatile groups around, and Let it Come Down is the example of a promise fulfilled, years in the making.
So when Godspeed You Black Emperor hires Fred Durst to make their first video or Sigur Ros buys a ton of mushrooms and heads for the caves in Iceland, maybe it's best to let them go and see what happens. At the very least, we could use something new.
1. On Fire
2. Do It All Over Again
3. Don't Just Do Something
4. Out of Sight
5. The Twelve Steps
6. The Straight and Narrow
7. I Didn't Mean to Hurt You
8. Stop Your Crying
9. Anything More
10. Won't Get to Heaven (the State I'm In)
11. Lord Can You Hear Me