Review Summary: Sting would be proud.
I recently went to a wedding where the couple danced to Sting and the Police’s “I’ll be Watching You.” It was a bizarre thing to see: the happy newlyweds and us, the audience, looked on with rapt attention and smiled pleasantly to an admittedly awesome song about a frightening, voyeuristic stalker. By the end of the dance, I made small talk with a few tablemates—they all knew what the song was about, but they had to hand it to Sting—the stuff was beautiful. What does this have to do with Sweet Heart, Sweet Light, the latest album from nineties-era psychedelic rock menschen, Spiritualized" Everything.
For starters, there’s something decidedly subversive about Spiritualized. Their name sounds holy enough—there’s elements of sanctity and piety in something that’s been filled enough godliness to be considered ‘spiritual’—but step back for a moment. With the grand opener “Hey Jane,” the lyrics coo, “Hey Jane, when you gonna die"” over a darkly violent music video (so bloody, in fact, that Youtube forces watchers to affirm that they’re over eighteen years old before they can even lay eyes on the thing). Their characteristically prescription-bottle-themed album art, replete with a resolute “Huh"” in the center of a thin, green hexagon, slapped on a white background, references the druggy, hazy stupor that the eleven-track album was recorded in. But take that in consideration that Sweet Heart, Sweet Light has eight out of the eleven songs recorded with a full-set orchestra and a gospel choir, singing about Jesus and salvation with song titles like “So Long, you Pretty Thing,” “Little Girl,” and “Mary.” And there’s the songs themselves. Spiritualized has always been a fan of projecting scuzzy, shoegazey, post-rocky jams into orbit, much like their 1997 pièce de résistance, Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space, where songs stretch on into an eleven-minute blissy, woozy paradise of lilting psychedelic rock, as if Lou Reed and the rest of his crew had somehow managed to play a gig in a packed cathedral. So where can we place Spiritualized" Have they tapped into some sort of moral limbo, straddling the line between devotion to God and devotion to the needle" Maybe.
Perhaps what makes Sweet Heart, Sweet light so intriguing is the fact that the tracks move the listener to some sort of visceral reaction, rubbing against the hollows of your heart with enough friction to cause a fat, juicy blister that won’t heal for days. This is real, sore-in-your-chest, lump-in-your-throat, tear-in-your-eye stuff that makes for a devastatingly beautiful complete listen. A little off or not, the subversively haunting Sweet Heart, Sweet Light—not unlike Sting— will haunt every move you make for a very long time.