CULTURE

Capital says a little prayer for the ever-turbulent Spiritualized

The top-selling British neo-psychedelic rock act Spiritualized, one of the contemporary scene’s more adventurous bands in recent years, will be returning to Greece for two shows in the capital later this week which will launch a second phase of shows in support of the group’s most recent album, last year’s «Let It Come Down.» Spiritualized had embarked on the tour’s first leg, covering Europe and North America, soon after the album’s release. Besides launching the group’s latest series of shows, the two concerts in Athens, at Club 22 (22 Vouliagmenis) this Friday and Saturday, also coincide with the release of a third single from Spiritualized’s last album, «Do It All Over Again.» The influential British music publication NME, which named the release as its Single of the Week in its last issue, described the track as making «every other single this week sound wimpy and incomplete.» For Jason Pierce, the group’s frontman and – given Spiritualized’s numerous sackings and lineup reshuffles – confrontational and demanding leader, the positive response to the new material among critics and fans, comes as a reward for the tedious amount of post-production time he had waged fine-tuning the songs. In his pursuit of the sound he wanted for «Let It Come Down,» an ambitious, lush follow-up to 1997’s breakthrough album, «Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space» – not including a live album in between – Pierce spent over a year at the mixing desk after the recording sessions had been completed. Over 100 musicians, including gospel singers and choirs, passed through the studio with their contributions. Considering his lack of a formal musical education, Pierce has, to the songwriter’s credit, managed to bring to life his ambitious musical ideas. On «Let It Come Down,» the arrangements of his songs comes across as potent and multidimensional. «I don’t write music, but I wanted to make this album so that the orchestrations were absolutely integral to the music, and that dictates the way the chords go, rather than how most orchestrations arrive in music now – adding strings or a choir after a fact,» Pierce told the US magazine Launch during the band’s tour in the USA late last year. However, getting it all out of his head seems to have come at a price, if the internal wrangling that has often crept into the group’s politics can be taken as a measure. Between the band’s last two studio albums, little – in terms of membership – has remained intact. Not long after the release of Spiritualized’s live album, 1998’s «Live at the Royal Albert Hall,» which emerged hot on the trails of «Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space,» Pierce sacked three of his band members. The group’s former musicians, bassist Sean Cooke, guitarist Mike Mooney, and drummer Damon Reece were all given their marching orders by Pierce. Despite the blow, the trio stuck together and formed their own band, Lupine Howl. Though she survived Pierce’s onslaught, Spiritalized’s keyboardist/ guitarist at the time, Kate Radley, who joined in 1995, left soon afterward when she wed Richard Ashcroft, the former leader of the defunct British group Verve, now a solo artist. «If you get the right people in the band, you don’t need to dictate the way they should play. Also, if you’re dictating that kind of stuff, you don’t get the best performance from people,» Pierce remarked following his triple-guillotine act. Fueled by friction Taking a step back for a clearer picture of the events over the years, friction seems to have been the fuel that pushes Pierce on. Spiritualized, for example, was formed from the ashes of his previous group, the trance rockers Spacemen 3, when Pierce clashed with the outfit’s other co-leader, Pete Kember, who also emerged from the flames with a new band, Spectrum. The final Spacemen 3 album, in fact, «Recurring» (1990), could well have been the preview of two new bands in the making. In essence, Pierce and Kember, who had disintegrated into two subgroups under the one band name, wrote the album’s material separately before using up half an album each to unload their respective results. Pierce recorded with most of the musicians that comprised Spiritualized’s original lineup about a year later. Despite the personnel changes, Pierce has so far managed to keep assembling outfits equipped with the traits to make them do their best on stage for adventurous renditions of the band leader’s equally adventurous work.