J. Spaceman hit upon his recipe for the sweetest possible medicine a few years back, and spent the subsequent decades refining the elixir. How else, then, to explain the potency, the sheer under-the-counter thrill that ‘Everything Was Beautiful’ offers? A record that rails against the passing of time, its profound space-rock minimalism is transformed into something heady and inspiring. Only Spiritualized’s second album since 2012, it also ranks – remarkably – as one of their best ever, an experience that often ranks close to the sublime.
Interstellar opener ‘Always Together With You’ transforms the limitations of lockdown into a transcendental form of intimacy, a pathway to communication near-unrivalled. ‘Best Thing You Never Had (D Song)’ flutters into the stratosphere, it’s low-key, feedback-drenched boogie warning that “it’s gonna be a long ride down…” A brass-enabled rollercoaster, it explodes into life on the back of a squealing, dirty, distorted J. Spaceman solo that cuts through you like lighting through a steel roof.
‘Let It Bleed (For Iggy)’ swaps the helter-skelter rock ‘n’ roll for a moment of soul, each note stretched out to oblivion, elongated beyond the horizon. The simple, semi-spoken vocal offers English R&B from the dark end of the street, a lovelorn hymn about music’s ability to communicate – and it’s limitations in truly expressing the language of the heart. Building into an overwhelming orchestra of sound, it’s an incredible piece of songwriting, heavenly in every possible way.
‘Crazy’ plays it simple, a countrified lament that feels confident enough to lay back and let the world pass by. ‘The Mainline Song / The Lockdown Song’ is one of the few tracks on the album to explicitly reference These Unprecedented Times, and it’s an incredible fusion of light and shade, form and formless. Setting itself on those rhythmic railroad tracks, it seems to feel the rush of routine, while marvelling at a city rendered anew. In his press notes, J. Spaceman claims that the bulk of the album was penned while walking around abandoned aspects of East London under lockdown – in tone and execution, ‘The Mainline Song / The Lockdown Song’ confronts this head-on, resulting in a truly singular blast of aural fascination.
‘The A Song (Laid In Your Arms)’ offers swathes of noise, J. Spaceman bathing himself in beatific feedback, using aural distortion to bleach his mind. He’s tried this trick before – free jazz has long been a key touchstone for Spiritualized – but rarely has it been so direct, dynamic and potent. Surging to a halt with nine minute finale ‘I’m Coming Home Again’ this isn’t a record to be swallowed quickly; once imbibed, it needs time to settle, with ‘Everything Was Beautiful’ attempting to re-arrange your nervous system from the inside out. A grand, cinematic record, it seems to burst past the edges of the widescreen limitations it utilises. Terrific space rock that feels utterly untethered from its sources, ‘Everything Was Beautiful’ easily ranks amongst Spiritualized’s finest achievements.
Words: Robin Murray
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