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3.4 out of 5 stars
Amazing Grace
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Showing 1-6 of 6 reviews(4 star)show all reviews
on July 1, 2004
Just looking at the cover of this album - what I assume is Jason Pierce's arm, free of track marks - shows that some attempt is being made to escape past demons here. Not entirely successfully, I'd say. But the sound of this album is, to be sure, quite a break from the direction of Spiritualized's prior two offerings. Stripped down, raucus, noisy - this sounds closer to Pierce's old Spacemen 3 days than anything I've heard from him in a while.
Does it work? Sort of. As I said, Pierce can't quite let go of the demons. Perhaps because he suspects that, without herion and heartbreak, he wouldn't have anything to write about. (Which I hope is not the case). Whatever the case, the first half of the album is, while enjoyable and noisy (and yes, the second track has quite a clever name indeed), nothing all that new. It's almost as though, by stripping down, Pierce is revealing that he's been playing around with the same few song structures that he's been using for years.
Then, following the obligatory free-jazz joint 'The Power & The Glory,' things start to get more interesting. 'Lord Let it Rain on Me' uses the familiar gospel sound that Pierce has empoyed before, but weds it to a somewhat more conventional structure, resulting in another surprisingly successful flirtation with a pop song. 'The Ballad of Richie Lee' is unlike anything I've yet heard from Pierce - throbbing bass, atonal strings, semi-rhythmic distorted guitar, the usual anguished murmurs - it's quite good indeed.
And the rest of the album seems to follow in this vein, loosening up, and starting to branch out a bit. It's a weird, almost disjointed listen. I enjoy it, but it's not a masterpiece. What it is, I hope, is the taste of Spiritualized's future - a little more mature, a little looser, a little more thoughtful. Maybe Pierce just needed to one last blast at the demons. This gives me hope for the future and for coming albums.
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on January 11, 2004
I endured the release of "Let it Come Down" with a thick skin and the knowledge that things couldn't get much worse. I was surprised that the usually mercurious J. Spaceman put a new album out merely two years after the last one, but after letting this one spin in the CD player for a while I was glad he didn't hesitate in releasing this.
"Amazing Grace" is nearly not a Spiritualized album. The songs are short, the production is stripped and the music is simplistic for J. Spaceman.
Openers `This Little Life of Mine' and `She Kissed Me (It Felt Like a Hit)' harken back to the days of `Electricity' from "Ladies and Gentlemen..." but that's not a bad thing. It seems that Mr. Pierce absorbed some cues from BRMC when they toured: These songs are simply noisy rock n roll songs that don't give an F about anything but the song.
`Hold On' and `Oh Baby' return to the expected Spaceman sound but not in some tired or stale way. On any previous Spiritualized albums these songs would have been two separate seven minute masterpieces; as it is they barely ecplipse seven minutes combined. `Hold On' is nearly a country-western Christian ballad, but in the hands of the capable Spaceman it accomplshes something more. `Oh Baby' is another ballad, this time a whisper soft whisp of ambient hum and gospel choir that sounds like what I imagine the ascension to Heaven to feel like. It is also pure beauty committed to tape that is best appreciated with a full soul.
`Never Goin' Back' brings back the stripped down rock sound again before `The Power and the Glory' soothes you with its bluesy intstrumental crawl. `Lord Let it Rain on Me' is a plaintive cry to an indifferent deity that is simply too good to pass up.
I didn't think much of `The Ballad of Richie Lee' at first, but successve listens reveal its lyrical density. If I could ever write a song or poem this complex about a lost loved one/friend, I would consider it my greatest achivement. `Cheapster' is another raw rocker, but at this point on the album it feels out of place, and `Rated x' is basically a `Richie Lee' reprise. If I ever burn this CD `Rated X' stays and `Richie Lee' is gone, mostly because of the former's orchestral beauty. `Lay it Down Slow' sounds like how you think it might, and it is the perfect closer for the album.
I like the fact the J. Spaceman is re-discovering his love for rock and roll again, but most of the upbeat tunes on this album sound too similar, that's why I don't give it the full five stars. However, after the disappointment of the previous album these 11 songs are exactly what a long time fan such as myself needed, and having seen the tour behind this album only helped my appreciation grow. If you see this album buy it, and if the Spaceman ever comes to your town see him. It can only do you good.
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on September 14, 2003
With the drama surrounding Spiritualized's new album, Amazing Grace, and their subsequent drop from major label Arista and signing on with Sanctuary, people had a right to be doubting how good the album would be, if it was ever to see the light of day at all. Well, rest assured people, this is still Spiritualized as we know them (well, him - J Spaceman) with only a slight difference from Let It Come Down, their last release. Gone are the hundred-plus musicians augmenting Spaceman, the huge gospel choirs, the brass section, etc. In their place are tigher song structures, more rock-focused melodies, and an overall emphasis on the base elements of Spiritualized's unique sound.
As the rumors go, Arista had a fallout with them over the more raw, garage-ish sound and they were dropped, to be picked up by small label Sanctuary. This may or may not be true, but the album as a whole sounds in no way like Spacemen 3's (Spaceman's previous band) droning, trance-garage crunchy sound. The first song, "This little life of mine" is a modern, crunchy, rocky play on the "this little light of mine, i'm gonna let it shine" gospel song, and sounds exactly like you'd think: they gave the pastor an electric guitar, loads of feedback, and a drop of acid. The next song, first single "She kissed me (it felt like a hit)" sounds like classic early Spiritualized, with overt drug analogies and a catchy chorus, which then fades into the slow burner "Hold on," the first work of beauty on this disc. The song offers the simple advice of holding on to the ones you love, but as always, sounds sincere and almost deep coming from this band. Other slow ballads on the album, including "oh baby" and "ballad of Richie Lee" offer the familiar warm, endearing quality of songs like "Broken Heart" or "Stop your crying" but without the overblown, theatrical sound that some found annoying or pretentious.
In fact, that statement describes this album pretty well: it sounds like modern, non-electronically augmented Spiritualized, but without the pretentiousness apparent after the Pure Phase album. (Not that pretentiousness is necesarilly bad: "Ladies and Gentlemen..." is still my favorite Spiritualized album). Lightly augmenting the mix are horns, a few strings here and there, but none of the full-blown orchestrations of old. This sounds like the album Spaceman may have wanted to make all along: taut, gripping, resourceful, affecting, yet rip-roaring rocking when it wants to be.
If a bigger suprise happens this year in rock music, it'll have to be a damn good one because the fact is, Spiritualized are back and just as good, if not better, than ever. I can see this album making Arista come crawling back to its senses and Spaceman's doorstep, begging forgiveness. Luckily Spiritualized didn't need them to make yet another fantastic album - this is my second highest recommendation this year, behind the mighty "Hail to the Thief" by Radiohead - good praise indeed.
Here's a nice quote from "Hold on" one of my early favorites:
"Cause death cannot part us if life already has, hold on to those you hold dear." I'll take this bit of simple advice to heart, and you should too. Like much of his lyrics, this has a simple, pure beauty to it, and so does "Amazing Grace."
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on September 14, 2003
As a record store employee, I hear many different complaints about many different albums. My least favorite complaint is "I liked their _____ album better." (whether it be first, last, or what have you). I don't see what there is not to like on "Amazing Grace". It's pure Spiritualized. Is it as good as "Ladies and Gentlemen...", of "Let It Come Down"? I don't think so. But what does that matter? I like "Dark Side of the Moon" better than I like "Animals", but that doesn't mean that I wouldn't recomend "Animals" to anyone. "Amazing Grace" may not be as good as previous efforts, but there is enough good on the album to help it stand on its own. Spiritualized was 3/3 before I bought "Amazing Grace." Based on that, I took a chance, and now the Spaceman is 4/4.
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on October 18, 2003
Spiritualized's music is a bad trip relieved by moments of beautiful clarity. They're as noisy, and beautiful, as prime Sonic Youth, and just as obsessed with death culture. After years of extended rants on such solid releases as Let It Come Down, Jason Pierce has yoked his love of screech to basic song structures for the most commercial, easygoing release of his career. Which doesn't make Amazing Grace an MOR triumph or anything like that. It just makes the roiling guitars on killer ballads like "Lord Let It Rain on Me" and "Hold On" easier to take. And sends rockers like "This Little Life of Mine" and "Cheapster" straight into the stratosphere - where Pierce usually begins, and almost always ends up.
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on September 18, 2003
woo! new Spiritualized!
After downloading the album about a month or so ago, I finally bought it today. It's good, I like it. Loud, raw, emotional, great. Spiritualized never disappoints me...unlike most bands. I just never really have any expectations for the next album at all (bad OR good) and take them as they are. Maybe some of them are left overs from past albums, but in this context it's makes an excellent CD.
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