Album Review: Spiritualized - And Nothing Hurt

And Nothing Hurt, the latest album from space rock veterans Spiritualized, finds frontman Jason Pierce in a difficult spot. Unable to afford a studio to record the whole project, Pierce’s first album in six years was primarily completed within his own home. However, I’d argue these are the aptest conditions for a Spiritualized album to be constructed under. Pierce’s work has always been about building something grand and uplifting out of a small and vulnerable situation. The juxtaposition of his delicate, shaky vocals against the huge, wall-of-sound instrumentals has always reflected this. In the same way, And Nothing Hurt sees Pierce transforming his house into the Royal Albert Hall.

And Nothing Hurt is an arrestingly lush album, formed from Pierce restlessly piling instruments on top of instruments until they’re almost falling out of your speakers. Opening track A Perfect Miracle is the most characteristic example of this; the timid ukulele at its centre soon becomes a foundation for vast landscapes of strings, horns and who knows what else. Similarly, lead single I’m Your Man grows exponentially from a simple blues tune into a vibrant symphonic rocker bursting with orchestral intensity. Here it Comes (The Road) Let’s Go takes a nostalgic, country-tinged song and propels it into extravagance with rousing backing vocals, boisterous horns and a stirring sax solo. Lyrically, these tracks also find Pierce in an unusually optimistic place. He’s still not perfect, but there’s a soothing appreciation for companionship glowing subtly through the cracks.

Pierce fills his living room with the heavens, conducting a mesmerizing orchestra with a beautifully flawed human centre.
– Nathan Brooks

However, the album doesn’t exclusively reach its dizzying heights through bombast. With On the Sunshine and The Morning After, Pierce instead delves into his garage rock roots. The former features snarling vocals, ferocious feedback and delightfully compulsive drumming, anchored by a formidable bassline and culminating with a riotously screechy saxophone. The latter reaches similar levels of free-jazz frenzy but begins with more glam rock flamboyance thanks to the Crocodile Rock-esque synths and vocals recalling Bowie’s Suffragette City. Conversely, Let’s Dance is deceptively gentle. Beginning as an intimate, stripped back love song, the track crescendos into a joyous, whimsical waltz whilst maintaining an uncharacteristic but refreshing playfulness.

Elsewhere, Pierce slows the pace down without compromising on impact. Damaged, not unlike Broken Heart from 1997’s Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, gradually swells into a soaring string section that sweeps and crashes right into your soul. Meanwhile, The Prize sounds like a church hymn wrapped in the stars, with its otherworldly organ and mystical melody creating a spellbindingly celestial effect. Finally, Sail on Through brings the album to a life-affirming close. It’s a triumphantly beautiful composition that reaches back to Spiritualized’s early shoegaze days with tender piano, rolling timpanis, ethereal flute, cosmic tremolo and shimmering guitar drones. Amidst all this, Pierce repeats a quintessentially Spiritualized promise, “If I could hold it down, I would sail on through for you / If I weren’t loaded down, I would sail on through for you”. Despite all the odds, he’s still reaching out for hope.

Jason Pierce is unsure if this album will be his final Spiritualized project. It would be an undeniable shame if that’s the case but if this has to be his swan song, it’s a fitting end to an exceptional career. On And Nothing Hurt, Pierce fills his living room with the heavens, conducting a mesmerizing orchestra with a beautifully flawed human centre. In other words, it’s what Spiritualized do best.