By most rock & roll standards, Spiritualized's 2018 album And Nothing Hurt was a rush of fuzzy gospel and intergalactic blues, but compared to much of the band's 30-odd-year discography, it was subdued and even slight. Spiritualized founder and core member Jason Pierce had made a habit of crafting epic masterpieces that reshaped Phil Spector's jam-packed production into his own narcotic wall of sound, and though And Nothing Hurt filled up all available space with lush arrangements, the songs themselves were largely restrained and more distant than usual. Four years later, Everything Was Beautiful serves as both a counterpoint and a companion piece to its predecessor, with seven songs drawn from the same demo sessions that produced And Nothing Hurt delivering the full-boil performances and ecstatic power that seemed to be lying dormant in their sister songs. The difference is quickly apparent in exquisite opening track "Always Together with You," one of the most immediate and hypercharged songs Pierce has created in years. The song's devotional melody, soaring hooks, and mishmash of familiar rock idioms (doo wop backing vocals ping-ponging over stardusted percussion and Marc Bolan-styled guitar leads) all feel referential to the band's 1997 high-water-mark Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space. It's an undeniably beautiful album opener, and a reminder of just how specific of a musical language Pierce has built with Spiritualized as the project has gone on. A nervy bassline and trancey rhythms drive "Best Thing You Never Had," with a grungy horn section and full choir of backing vocalists bringing some Exile on Main St. energy to an otherwise motoric psychedelic rocker. More gospel vocals, burbling synths, and everything from bass harmonica to woodwinds congeal into radiant light on the joyous "The Mainline Song," and the nearly ten-minute closing track "I'm Coming Home Again" is a simmering dirge that builds in intensity until the tension finally breaks in the song's final 30 seconds. Only on the sighing country tune "Crazy" does the album briefly relax, with every other moment finding Pierce crowding his songs with overblown sonics and pushing the performances to their brink. It's one of the liveliest albums Spiritualized have made, and it's easy to imagine the passionate Everything Was Beautiful and the comparatively withdrawn And Nothing Hurt as two halves of a double-album statement. On its own, however, Everything Was Beautiful is delirious and exciting, a perfect distilment of the best parts of the band's various phases that feels reinvigorated and new.
Everything Was Beautiful Review
by Fred Thomas