Spiritualized - Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space

But hold hard. Let's return to terra firma for a while (finds bucket of water, throws over face). Because Spiritualized, as those of you who've been hooked ever since Jason Pierce's first Spacemen 3-sponsored quest for the perfect prescription will tell you, are so pharmaceutically inclined it's easy to get carried away by the sheer volume of ideas they throw in your direction.

That established: the album. Practically two years old already (Jason having spent the past 18 months traipsing around the globe in search of the perfect mix) and home to 58 musicians, it is, quite simply, a seismic tour de force. The work of a man who, having assimilated an army of influences - Captain Beefheart and Sly Stone for sure, but everyone from Elvis to Zappa to Red Crayola are all lost in here somewhere - has managed to create an entirely new noise out of the wreckage. And wreckage is what this album is all about. Because 'Ladies And Gentlemen...' is the sound of a relationship not so much on the rocks as smashed to smithereens. To be blunt, it feels like nothing so much as hearing its author's most private diaries put to music. The actual names and events, as Jason keeps reminding us, are inconsequential (though, if you're interested, an on-off relationship with keyboardist Kate Radley is involved in there somewhere); it's the damage that's been caused that counts.

The opening title track rolls in like a lullaby from the gates of redemption. "All I want is a little love to take the pain away," Jason sighs, while a sea of synths space-waltz around him, slave to the feverish delirium it's brought to him.

The mood of the album is set. Love is the law, and having lost it, nothing but the oblivion offered by prescribed drugs will heal the pain. For the Stooges-sludge rock of 'Come Together' Jason growls his way through some sort of warped nursery rhyme in tribute to Lennon's 'Cold Turkey' ("Those tracks of time/Those tracks of mine...") while in 'I Think I'm In Love' he's even more blatant, past caring, even: "Love in the middle of a afternoon/Just me and a spike in my arm and my spoon."

By the time you get to the crushing beauty of 'Broken Heart' (imagine The Verve's 'History' scored by Michael Nyman) it's become quite clear that this is an album straight out of the confession box.

"I'm wasted all the time/I've got to drink you right out of my mind," he mourns, but there's no solution here, only the realisation of the emotional agony he's in: "I've been told this will heal given time/Lord I have a broken heart..."

There is refuge from the deadly arrows of heartbreak that have struck him down, but they provide only the most short-lived of escapes: 'Electricity', a thundering 'Medication'-esque caterwaul, fizzles to a messy conclusion, while the experimental noise-scape of 'The Individual' and the Soft Machine-like jazz rumble of 'No God Only Religion' ebb and flow only to back out of trouble, leaving us to swim through the raw-nerved blues-melancholia elsewhere.

And by the time you've surfaced from the mind-shattering (gulp) 16-minute Dr John collaboration, 'Cop Shoot Cop' (Doors swampiness for three minutes; sonic Valhalla at seven-and-a-half; Latino trumpets at 12; ghost chant and kitchen sink to fade), and the soothing, gospelised kiss-off, 'Cool Waves', you're pretty much convinced that if sonic cathedrals actually existed then 'Ladies And Gentlemen...' would quite clearly be the Vatican, St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey rolled into one.

What such a magnum opus will mean to those people who remain resolutely untouched by Jason Pierce's celestial manoeuvres in the dark is hard to say. Equally, so long as the likes of Noel Gallagher retain their populist instinct, the chances of an album as transcendentally special as 'Ladies And Gentlemen...' forcing Jason Pierce to abandon his place in the shadows and slip into the mainstream remain slim. Which is how it should be. Nothing's changed.

Jason Pierce, jilted lover and sonic alchemist, has just created his floored masterpiece, that's all, and if you'd like a part of his stoned genius all you have to do is close your eyes, light up a large one, and dream along with him...


Paul Moody