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let it come down
Spiritualized
Let It Come Down
Arista

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Editor's Note: We actually weren't going to review this disc, but it's been at the top of our search engine requests for the last two weeks, so we procured a review copy. As you can see, we do pay attention to that stuff.

More has been made of Spiritualized mastermind Jason Pierceís narcotic-fueled endeavors than of his consistently inspired and original musical compositions. But as sordid as his past may be, there is simply no disputing his claim to the title of all things Spectorian. He is the grand visionary of the Britpop set -- a hopeless dreamer with the rare ability to channel his dreams into majestic, wide-screen aural vistas that seem to stretch into forever.

A new Spiritualized album is not unlike Halleyís comet; both only come around once every few years, and when the opportunity arises to see/hear one, you would be best advised to seize it. This fact is due in no small part to Pierceís notoriously methodical songcraft, and his never-ending quest for auricular perfection. To the outsider, he appears to have the motivation of a tortoise (the animal, not the band) and the temperament of a rabid Cheetah, spending unimaginable amounts of time in the studio perfecting his craft, and firing musicians at the drop of a hat.

Let it Come Down is rumored to have taken nearly two-and-a-half years to create, and to have cost the record label an exorbitant sum of money -- not to mention many a nightís sleep. While this journey might very well have been long and torturous -- not only for Pierce himself, but also for the musicians working with him -- the result proves to be well worth the time and trouble.

The disc's opening track, "On Fire", picks up where 1997ís Ladies and Gentlemen we are Floating in Space left off, its strident, buzzing blues-guitar riffs and wailing harmonica exploding from your speakers. From that point onward, the record twists and turns its way into Pierceís now only slightly fractured soul. Not since Pierce bared it all on their last record has an inward journey sounded so sumptuous and vital. The epic "Donít Just do Something" is the redemption song to end all redemption songs, with Pierceís fragile vocal delivery fighting to stay afloat in a sea of fluttering strings and tortured guitar wailing. He throws a vicious lyrical curve to critics and fans alike with the blistering blues-stomper "The Twelve Steps", in which he flatly states that "Iíve only got twelve steps to go" -- clearly putting to rest the journalistic notion that he has, in fact, cleaned up his act.

Perhaps not surprisingly, then, the albumís most breathtaking moment is a song about trying to stay sober. "The Straight and the Narrow" is one of the most stirring and downright lovely songs Pierce has ever committed to tape. As tubular bells crash around him, he sweetly intones "The trouble with the straight and the narrow is that itís so thin/I keep falling off to the side," seemingly indicating that no matter how hard he may try, his past (musical or otherwise) will always be there to haunt him. It's certainly a bold move to use such a song as the albumís lynchpin, but Pierce pulls it off with aplomb.

The disc continues in similarly grandiose style. From the death-march atmospherics of "I Didnít Mean to Hurt You" to the sheer orchestral beauty of "Stop Your Crying" and the heartbreaking balladry of "Lord Can You Hear Me", the album consistently takes control of your emotions. When it's all over, you canít help but be affected by Pierceís opulent tales of abandon, addiction and heartache. He may be milking the Tortured Artist persona for all it's worth, but it helps to put things into perspective for the rest of us; life could be a lot worse, and the thirteen songs on Let it Come Down are a nothing but a joyous affirmation of that fact.

-- Jason Jackowiak
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