Feats of Strength: Spiritualized

In the world of Spiritualized, there is no such thing as subtlety; it seems that every song (and perhaps every lyric) that Jason Pierce writes is a matter of life and death.  Pierce’s subjects usually revolve around personal failings and attempts at redemption, whether it be through drugs, religion, or some other means, and he matches the grand scale of these topics with music that is equal in scope.  Spiritualized albums have become known for their multi-part epics that alternate between a wide variety of disparate genres, accomplished with the aid of a bevy of musicians and vocalists to help create dense layers of instrumentation.  Over the course of a career, the method can seem formulaic, but it can produce some truly glorious results.

Sweet Heart, Sweet Light is bookended by two soaring sing-alongs, “Hey Jane” and “So Long You Pretty Thing”.  The latter is a triumphant reflection of what has transpired over the course of the album, while “Hey Jane” is more of a fiery call-to-arms that helps give the record its initial spark.  Both songs create serious goosebumps in the listener, even though they accomplish this through different means.

Obviously, one of the keys for creating a song that compels an entire audience to sing along is writing a killer melody that both catches the ear and is easily repeated, a skill that Pierce has in spades.  But with “Hey Jane”, Pierce uses a more subtle technique that helps enhance the effect of the jubilant outro.  The majority of the song is built on a straightforward, chugging rhythm that propels the song forward.  As the song builds towards its climax, Pierce introduces a solo guitar that plays a riff that foreshadows the final melody.  This is laid on top of the previous chugging rhythm, and combined with Pierce’s vocals that echo the underlying rhythm, creates a sense of tension that builds with every measure.  The two figures compete against each other, until finally the tension is released with the mantra of “Sweet heart, sweet life; sweetheart, love of my life”, which takes a similar sweeping shape to that of the guitar.  From then on, it is simply a matter of repeating it to your heart’s content, but know that the “victory” is that much sweeter as a result of that initial “struggle”.


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