Let It Come Down
By: Eric Greenwood
What do you do after you release your most critically acclaimed/commercially successful album to date? Well, if you"re Jason Pierce, you fire everyone in your band and start over. 1997"s Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space was a monumental album for Pierce"s Spiritualized. It was a cathartic behemoth. Music by junkies about junk. Lush, atmospheric, and expansive- it was a sonic oxymoron. Spiritualized"s music has always been minimal and simplistic, but that album combined extensive production and complex orchestration with Pierce"s psychedelic/post-Velvet Underground formula, creating a dreamy, drug-fuelled collage of (what he represents as) his fragile mental state.
Let It Come Down is the other side of the coin, spiritually, but sonically it differs little from its predecessor. Why Pierce had to fire his band is a mystery. Maybe, since Let It Come Down is a thinly veiled twelve-step program, Pierce felt he had to do some in-house cleansing first. It doesn"t really matter much because with or without those bandmates (who went on to form Lupine Howl) Spiritualized is and always has been Jason Pierce. If you"re uninitiated with Ladies And Gentleman We Are Floating In Space, then Let It Come Down will feel like a kick in the ribs. For the converted it"s not quite as exciting or shocking, but Pierce still comes through once again with an album of masterfully crafted space-rock.
From the first piano twinkling of "On Fire", it"s obvious that Pierce is reaching into the well of New Orleans-style blues to add a certain level of credibility to his soul-searching rock. The piano quickly gives way to heavily affected guitar screeches, which in turn give way to a pounding rhythm section. When the horns kick in you realize that Pierce has spared no expense in creating another symphonic sonic assault. His voice growls through the lyrics, which paint in broad strokes the picture of his fight for redemption. Ever since The Rolling Stones trotted out the gospel singers on "Gimme Shelter", it"s been a sign of grandiose embellishment for rock bands, but that"s what Pierce"s music is all about these days.
"Do It All Over Again" is more introspective. It"s a breezy pop song, despite the resignation imbibed in the lyrics. Once again the piano prominently carries the song, which features some of Pierce"s most melodic vocals. In a more informed world, this would be a huge hit. By the time the strings sneak in you"re eager to listen to it again. Everything meshes together so well, which only makes sense knowing that Pierce went so far as to hum melodies into a Dictaphone for each instrumental player because he can"t write music. So, yeah, there may be a hundred musicians playing on this album, but Pierce wrote every note. Such insularity helps keep the subject matter from feeling bloated and generic.
Amazingly, the drugs haven"t dulled Pierce"s wit one bit: "Out of sight is always out of mind/I think out of mind is out of sight/I was just looking for some piece of mind/I just couldn"t find a piece of mine" ("Out of Sight"). Ha. This song lampoons the rehab lifestyle to some degree but "The Twelve Steps" takes it even further. It"s a garage-style rocker, wherein Pierce lists the pros and cons of sobriety and intoxication (the final tally leaning towards drunk and drugged) and delivers such classy lines as "twenty-eight days for thirteen grand/better go get myself an insurance plan/"cos she"s my man." When the guitars are loud Pierce seem awfully brave, but the guilt rears its ugly head on ballads like "The Straight And Narrow": "The trouble with the straight and the narrow/is it’s so thin I keep sliding off to the side/and the devil makes good use/for these hands of mine."
Let It Come Down flaunts Pierce"s obsessions with guilt and regret in an unlikely forum. He pines away for love and acceptance like a life-long sinner, fearing his inevitable end. The overblown orchestration carries his message further than distorted guitars possibly could. The beauty of "Won"t Get To Heaven (The Sate I"m In)" is in its enormity. His pleas are small but the delivery is huge thanks to the gospel choir in tow: "I believe I"m damaged/I believe I"m wrong/I believe my time ain"t long." There"s a hint of disingenuousness in the fact that Pierce chooses this style of music to air his dirty laundry. It"s almost as though he"s dumbing himself down to appear a simpleton. What an egomaniac. It"s a gorgeously engrossing and satisfying album full of blood sweat and tears, though, so more power to Pierce for being able to pull it all off with such substance and style. It is, unquestionably, one of the best albums of 2001.