Monday, September 6, 2010

I'd Love to Turn You On #17: Spiritualized - Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space

What happened to ambition? What happened to art that overarched its own expectations? What happened to epic rock albums? You know like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? There are some new albums that qualify, but it is less and less common - a combination of changing tastes and a music industry unwilling or unable (financially) to take risks and let an artist just go for it. The truth is Jason Pierce, the main brain behind all things Spiritualized, spent much of his own money and resources to create this…this…masterpiece. That is a word I do not use often, but this album can go by no other name. It is a high water mark in all rock and roll, one of the rare moments when an artist’s creative dreams poke through the hazy film of the mundane and drags the rest of the world into the Technicolor reality he inhabits. And what is that world like? It is equally beautiful and scary. In spite of Pierce’s claims to the contrary, Ladies and Gentleman is a drug album. No, it is THE drug album - of all times. Throughout the twelve songs that make up this album, Pierce addresses his own drug use on almost every song. Want an example? From the second song “Come Together” he says “Little Johnnie’s sad and fucked, first he jumped and then he looked, the tracks of time those tracks of mine, little Johnnie’s occupied/So little J’s a fucked up boy, who dulled the pain but killed the joy, and little J’s a fucking mess but when he’s offered just says yes.” Or on “Home Of The Brave” he says “Sometimes have my breakfast right off of a mirror and sometimes I have it right out of a bottle.” Not a glorification, not a whining excuse, he’s just letting you know where he’s coming from. And he does it again and again throughout this album. He sets the scene and the mood and then piles on a wall of psychedelic sound that would make Phil Spector hide in the corner of his jail cell. The lyrical content is important on this album, because it is a constant reminder of the frenzied, almost desperate milieu that this artist toiled within, but it is the music that is the real revelation.

Pierce spent over a year working on Ladies And Gentlemen and it shows in every shimmering wall of guitars, every triple and quadruple tracked vocal, every tasteful horn fill, choirs, orchestras, dulcimers…each song is a fully realized sonic palette of rare execution. One really does have to go back to what are considered the greatest rock albums ever to find another group of songs so actualized. One can literally choose any song on this album and get lost in the folds of sound that pour forth. It MUST be played loud. Really. This is an album that is not for the faint of heart in any way. If you turn away from painful lyrics, go listen to Jason Mraz. If you are scared to turn it up to the point that your wife/mother comes into the room with a look of horror on her face, then go elsewhere. One must be brave with this album. It has to be allowed to become as overwhelming a listening experience as it apparently was a creative one for Jason Pierce. Here’s the only thing I can compare it to; did you ever take acid and stare into the mirror just a little too long? It’s like that. It causes a cosmic shiver, but it is an important step for any psychic warrior. If you can’t face yourself, who can you face? Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space is just that - an hour-long acid freakout in the company of a very intelligent, talented guy. The songs are alternately wild and quiet; ecstatic and demoralized, the lowest lows, the highest highs. 

So many albums are good for a song or two, or even worse a listen or two, and then they are discarded to the ranks of  “ok.” Jason Pierce’s finest album is not one of those. It is a keeper, and an extraordinary achievement. I believe every artist wishes he had an album this good, this ambitious, this memorable in his or her quiver. The truth is, most simply don’t have the talent, the drive or the tenacity to create something this great.

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