Jason Spaceman is back with his sixth studio outing under the SPIRITUALIZED banner – Songs In A & E. It’s a record; more even than any of its predecessors in the Spiritualized canon.
Jason explains. “The idea was to record and put the record out quick, but then I became ill. I had double pneumonia. I had Legionnaires’ disease or something, so...I was quite ill, it took it out of me.”
At his lowest ebb, Jason spent a couple of weeks in intensive care. “I lost weight,” he says. “I was in a bad way for a few months. It was a big gap in the making of this record, it was a big thing to get through, and to get over.”
Initially, however, the album had seemed almost blessed by a bizarre external twist of fate, part of rock mythology. “We found a guitar in a shop in Cincinnati,” Jason recalls, “a 1929 Gibson, absolutely immaculate. It was in a store full of the things, and it just sounded unlike anything else in there. I had no money but I kind of knew that I had to have the guitar, we found the man and took the guitar away, and it almost seemed like it came with the songs attached.”
Jason pauses, and laughs. “The songs came really quick after that, within about two weeks or so. This record is the first one where I just sat down and wrote songs on a guitar, usually I just get ideas in my head and put them onto tape. So doing it this way, writing on an acoustic guitar, seemed like something I hadn’t really done.”
Somewhere between penning the tunes/words, and the point where any of them had been fully prepared for release, Jason’s illness kicked in. He wouldn’t return to his work-in-progress for the best part of two years. When he finally did, it was difficult to regain the creative impetus: “It was very hard to reattach myself to the record.” he says, “It took a long time, to try and rediscover what my original thought processes were. But it would’ve been equally hard to just let the songs go, because they’re invested with a huge amount of emotion.”
His way back into the record was an offer to provide the soundtrack to Mr. Lonely, a new movie by director Harmony Korine (Gummo, Julian Donkey Boy, Kids). “While I was doing stuff for Harmony’s film, I also worked on the “Harmony” pieces (on Songs In A & E). They’re called that as a reference to him, and also because they’re kind of harmonic pieces. They suggested a way of putting the original tracks together.”
Jason’s confidence was given a further boost when invites started flooding in to perform so-called “Acoustic Mainlines” gigs, everywhere from All Tomorrow’s Parties in Minehead, to the Harlem Apollo in New York. The band – 3 gospel singers, a 7-piece string section, Spiritualized member Tony Foster on Fender Rhodes piano, and Jason on acoustic guitar and vocals – pretty much brought the house down wherever it went.
“It sounds dumb, but we were on stage at some of those shows with tears rolling out of eyes and across our faces. There was just this amazing reaction to what we were doing. It was like doing a show without production – not about lights and bombast, just about the delivery of these songs – and I think people were genuinely moved by it. It felt like a good place to be.”
Suitably vibed up by each live excursion, Jason got stuck back into the 1929 Gibson songs, reworking them often with the same choir/strings/acoustic format, and often road-testing them out onstage. The likes of “Soul On Fire,” “Sitting On Fire” and “Goodnight, Goodnight” will be familiar to anyone who witnessed the increasingly momentous Acoustic Mainlines shows through 2007.
The album that slowly took shape has all the flow of previous Spiritualized classics, only here there is no hiding behind studio effects, or screaming tornados of guitar feedback. “There’s is no need to over-complicate things, to be willfully strange in music. These songs are simple in their construction, but they’re honest.”
The result, then, is a record true to Jason’s original tenet of simplicity, but completely unlike any of his others, thanks to its naked, unelaborate sound. Songs like “Baby I’m Just A Fool” and “Goodnight, Goodnight” and “Death Take Your Fiddle” find Pierce’s voice, ever a fragile but engaging instrument, taking stage centre in its fatigued vulnerability, in each case supported by exquisite angel’s breath from the choir, and the subtlest of instrumental backing. However, Songs In A & E is hardly an “unplugged” record: check “You Lie, You Cheat’ “and the Can-ish LSD howl of “I Gotta Fire.”
So, after an album genesis even more harrowing than he might have anticipated, Jason now prepares to do what for him is the more care-free part of his trade – live performance. He will return with a full Spiritualized line up in the UK in May with dates around the world to follow.
— Andrew Perry, February 2008