Review by Darren Gawle
My friend Matt from Nottingham recently spent a month back home in England and came back with the news that this, Spiritualized's third album, and Radiohead's OK Computer are currently vying for the title of "Album of the Decade" in the British music press. This is probably some more of the U.K.'s typical media hyperbole; but, in years to come, these two records will likely be the twin pillars of wisdom upon which the musical worth of 1997, at least, will be judged.
Like its Radiohead counterpart, Ladies and Gentlemen... is an album which distills the spirit of the times and the generation which produced it -- a concept album in spirit, if not in orchestration. Loosely defined, the theme of the album is a sort of 'boy meets girl/girl dumps boy/boy does some heavy drugs to cope with the loss' type of affair. Seventeen seconds into the title track and Jason Pierce (aka J. Spaceman) has scored the winning goal of the match: "All I want in life's a little bit of love to take the pain away" becomes a mantra which weaves its way through a cautionary transmission from an Elvis-quoting Apollo 10 astronaut.
Ladies and Gentlemen... runs a gamut of influences which are exhaustive rather than exclusive: the Jesus & Mary Chain, Elvis, Mahler, Terry Riley, the Doors, gospel, blues, flamenco and Phil Spector exist together in a surprisingly homogeneous sound. The classically-orchestrated and hymnal "Broken Heart" is probably the only song of the last five years which could make a marine drill sergeant break down and cry, and if it doesn't, then "Cool Waves" will probably finish the job. "I Think I'm in Love" conveys a 'lying in the grass on a summer day' vibe, "Stay with Me" conveys a 'lying in bed with your lover on an autumn day' vibe, and the sixteen-plus minutes of "Cop Shoot Cop..." bring the album to a memorably creepy finish courtesy of Dr. John on piano.
With this record, Spiritualized ups the ante for all post-Nirvana complaint-rock bands by not only telling you how Jason Pierce feels, but by also using expressive musical arrangements to make you feel the same way too. You don't have to identify with lyrics like "Hey man, there's a hole in my arm where all the money goes" to get the gist of an album which speaks to a generation where true love is just about the scarcest commodity around.
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