A&E isn’t a reinvention for Spiritualized, but while that might be a disappointment for some, the comforting embrace of familiarity shouldn’t be underrated.
Despite its title, Spiritualized’s fifth opus was actually written largely before frontman Jason Pierce’s brush with death via pneumonia, in 2005. It’s nonetheless an oddly prescient work, with his vocals sounding more world-weary and frail than ever and some particularly spooky moments in light of subsequent events, such as the laboured breathing and morbid lyrical references in ‘Death Take Your Fiddle’.
Listening to A&E, one gets the feeling that Pierce was still somewhat conscious of the backlash against 2001’s overambitious Let It Come Down when writing this record, and used the same back-to-basics sensibility that informed its follow-up Amazing Grace. Delicate, folksier melodies and a sparse, organic sound are favoured over the occasional bursts into grungy garage rock of old, and it’s not until the ninth track ‘You Lie You Cheat’ that the guitars are given a proper workout. ‘I Gotta Fire’ and ‘Yeah Yeah’ come close, too, but still apply a lighter touch than the likes of ‘She Kissed Me (It Felt Like A Hit)’ from previous albums.
Slower and more laid-back it may be, but it’s still as beautiful and painstakingly crafted as any of Pierce’s previous work, with the quiet grandeur of the strings-and-acoustic number ‘Sitting On Fire’ and the gentle folksy strum of ‘Baby I’m Just A Fool’ being particular highlights.
Key Track: ‘Baby I’m Just A Fool’
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