Everything Was Beautiful

The rudiments of *Everything Was Beautiful* were originally intended as the second half of a 2018 double album, but the new Spiritualized album is far from an assemblage of outtakes and demos, finds Mick Middles

The title Everything Was Beautiful hails from Kurt Vonnegut’s evergreen novel, Slaughterhouse Five. The book is spiced by an unworldly and illuminating air where the horrific and comedic make unlikely bedfellows and time travel excursions are irregularly spliced into the text. The same might be said of this album which, as one has grown to expect from Jason Pierce, is a captivating and haunting beauty which shocks and soothes and seems to have landed from some parallel universe.

Two listens in and it becomes clear that Everything Was Beautiful is one of the most assured and curiously emotive albums in Spiritualized’s impressive canon. The tracks drift by and seem to fold into each other, probing for new levels – deeper insights, perhaps? Becoming lost to this melodic flow is nothing less than a joyful experience.

This is more surprising given that the bare bones of this carefully assembled musical drifting were initially intended as sides three and four of 2018’s And Nothing Hurt. Pierce’s label boss, Mathew Johnson from Fat Possum, wisely steered the project away from the dreaded ‘double album’ syndrome. This might have been nothing more than a marketing decision and, frankly, one might have expected Everything Was Beautiful to be little more than an assemblage of outtakes and initially discarded demos. It is nothing of the sort.

Lockdown provided the space for Pierce to sit back and revisit the tracks. The songs have all benefitted from these unexpected levels of time and space to add additional material and occasional re-writing. Pulling from the twin pressures of studio time and commercial schedule combined to give the songs a sense of gentle completeness.

The album offers bold themes and intricate twists. Pierce’s prized collection of self-made recordings of a passing train (American in this instance) provides the darkening rumble on ‘The Mainline Song’. Adding deeper resonance to the harrowing theme of George Floyd’s murder which dominated the news at the time the initial demo was recorded. Pure Pierce, hurling topical instances into the heart of a song as if to underpin the wash of emotion.

Lockdown and artistic maturity – Pierce touched 55 last year – combine from the opening ‘Always Together With You’ which employs a typically careful layering, which includes staggered Morse Code bleeps (apparently from Apollo 11) and the gentle haunting sound of spoken words delivered by Pierce’s daughter, Poppy. This scene setting introduction carries you gently into the musical heart of an album where you may hear jagged shards of The Stooges or distant shots of heartfelt country. Even a splice of pedal steel guitar is eased into the top end of a mix that, throughout the album, remains underpinned by a customary racing heartbeat.

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