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CATEGORIES:     BOOKSBUSINESSCULTUREFAITHISSUESLIFEMOVIESPOLITICSSCIENCE/TECHSPIRITUALITYTVWORLD
John Murphy | 09.24.08

Music

Lord, Can You Hear Me?

Lord, Can You Hear Me?

Sometime last year, Spiritualized frontman, Jason Pierce, found himself in the UK equivalent of the E.R, the Accident & Emergency ward, undergoing treatment for double-pneumonia. It would be tempting to conclude that this brush with mortality inspired Pierce’s latest album’s worth of death-haunted sonic swells, Songs in A & E. After all, the Grim Reaper gets a name-check in “Death Take Your Fiddle,” as Pierce implores him to “Play a song we used to sing / The one that brought me close to you.”

Death hovers like a minor-key cloud over Pierce’s compositions. In addition to his medical troubles, Pierce has struggled with various addictions, including heroin—a lifestyle that makes death a constant companion, but also brings “heaven” closer to Earth as drug use provides a means of escape, a temporary reprieve from reality, a living death on a celestial plane of sound. It is also slow-burn physical and spiritual suicide, which Pierce is well aware of. On the song “Walking with Jesus,” Pierce sang:

So listen, sweet Lord, forgive me of my sins
Cause I can’t stand this life without all of these things
I know I’ve done wrong but I’m in heave on earth
I know I’ve done wrong but I could have done you worse

Droning synths, repetitive riffs, and blissed-out vocals are the telltale signs of a Spiritualized tune, wrapping the listener in a druggy haze that will often crescendo to dizzying peaks, only to dip back down in imitation of heroin’s after-effects. Many of Pierce’s sound-drenched ballads are hymns, prayers to God, an impression supported by Pierce’s love for gospel choirs and church organs. On the song, “Lord, Can You Hear Me,” Pierce begs:

Lord, help me out
I’d take my life, but I’m in doubt
Just where my soul will lie
Deep in the earth or way up in the sky

Having skated a little too close to the abyss, Songs in A & E scrapes a lot of Spiritualized’s sonic encrustations, favoring acoustic guitars, melancholic strings, and the croaking vocals of a front-porch sing-along. The simplicity suits Pierce’s newfound maturity, both sonic and thematic:

Come on my love
Come on my child
Let heaven flow into your soul
Let it come on down
Ease away pain
You won’t feel that way again

Spiritualized’s lyrical mainstays are love, drugs, and God, but the songs themselves—epic, orchestral, emotive—testify to the saving power of music, a way for heaven to “flow into your soul.”

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