I've been listening to Spiritualised a lot recently. Partly because really liking Pure Phase
made me pull out Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space
and actually connect with it properly for perhaps the first time. Partly because there's no better moping music than Spiritualised. Listening though, I'm struck by how much the group stand out from the trend towards expansive maximalism they helped spark among alternative guitar bands (everything from The Flaming Lips to Mogwai).
Something like "I Think I'm In Love" (still in my opinion the best distillation of the band's qualities - a shimmering, blissful arrangement, a sense of lysergic weightlessness and lyrics I not only wish I'd written but actually forget I didn't write) shares perhaps less with most post-rock or drone as it does with the futuristic pop, garage and R&B I'm always harping on about. The hook is deceptively simple, but in fact created out of disparate elements: a streak of guitar, a short piano dip and the uneasy whine of a harmonica. The use of repetition is not motivated so much by a desire to switch off as the realisation that nothing else is needed, and the graceful percussion hems and lattices the song as effectively as any spasmodic breakbeat.
What endears Spiritualised to me most though is not the band's musical individuality so much as the tangible emotion their work embodies. Where post-rock usually dedicates itself to vague disquiet or numbing depression, Jason Pierce is unabashedly devoted to the bigness of emotions, whether they're stimulated by lovers or by drugs. It's why the deflating call-and-response used in "I Think I'm In Love" is so memorable: the music actually captures the feelings which Jason's alter-ego knows to be false. The contrast between the feeling and the reality crosses over into the music - these songs are gorgeous, but in a way they don't even sound real.
Jason is a slave to the empowering process of feeling. It's a position I find myself respecting. "No God, Only Religion", with its title if not its actual music, sums up that state where believing in something (be it love, or just the effectiveness of drugs) surpasses the object of belief as the primary form of sustenance and source of pleasure. I think we all go through periods in our lives where the routine of placing faith in something dominates us long after that which we placed faith in has ceased to be important. It's an uncomfortable realisation, or at least it has been for me this week, but if Spiritualised can tell me about my weaknesses then listening to them must be something akin to spiritual rearmament. At least until I get into Christian Rock.