Recorded at 11 different studios and featuring more than 30 musicians, Everything Was Beautiful might not be particularly ambitious by Spiritualized standards, but it certainly makes most other bands’ efforts seem a bit feeble. As ever, the multilayered magnitude of Jason Pierce’s psychedelic creations takes the breath away from the very start of his band’s ninth full-length: Always Together With You is both archetypal Pierce nursery rhyme and sumptuous, symphonic reverie, and one of his most immediate and affecting songs yet.
If 2018’s And Nothing Hurt was a more stripped-down and delicate take on the Spiritualized formula, this album marks a partial return to the widescreen psychedelia of the band’s critical peaks, Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space and Let It Come Down. With a skittering krautrock beat and huge surges of brass and strings, Best Thing You Never Had is garage rock stretched to the mystic max, Pierce’s deadpan vocals hanging in the foreground like illicit secrets. Let It Bleed is an impossibly lush ballad; laced with the magical ripple of a Hammond organ, it waltzes gracefully towards a startling gospel finale. In contrast, Crazy is a beautifully elegant and unfussy country rock tear-jerker, with Pierce demonstrating his gifts for both pathos and the gentle subversion of clichés.
The album’s second half dives deeper into the mushroom tea, and offers some of the most adventurous and mind-bending music that Spiritualized have ever released. Mainline harks back to the hazy throb of 1995’s Pure Phase, but with
a warmer and bigger overall sound. Three minutes of exquisite, bubbling psych pass by before Pierce starts to sing, and then his circular refrain builds and builds, with more brass, more strings, exuberant backing vocals and the reassuring howl of a Fripp-esque fuzz guitar motif all fizzing in the mix.
The A Song (Laid In Your Arms) maintains the maxed-out approach over a loping, bluesy groove: roughly halfway through the song, an insane storm of freeform noise erupts, before a chaotic and adrenaline-drenched final fade to black. Best of all, the closing I’m Coming Home Again shares a few slivers of DNA with Cop Shoot Cop, the astonishing closing track from Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space. Ten minutes of meandering voodoo rock, it’s the closest that Spiritualized have come to penning an authentic swamp blues song, and Everything Was Beautiful’s wonderfully organic and live-sounding production only adds to the unfolding magic.
Grand ambitions realised: this is one of the most potent expressions of Pierce’s vision to date.