The RX is Uproxx Music’s stamp of approval for the best albums, songs, and music stories throughout the year. Inclusion in this category is the highest distinction we can bestow, and signals the most important music being released throughout the year. The RX is the music you need, right now.
Seeing Spiritualized live in the last decade or so is to witness the bandleader Jason Pierce — or J. Spaceman as he becomes in the confines of his space-rock interpretation of pop canon — as a frail rocker. He often performed sitting down during that period regardless of how the songs moved him and was forthcoming about years of health issues ranging from near-fatal pneumonia in 2005 (his heart stopped beating multiple times, his weight sank below 100 pounds, and his girlfriend at the time began grief counseling in preparation for his eventual death) and liver disease that required the same treatment that they give leukemia patients in 2012. Coupled with a long reputation and lyrical infatuation with drug use, hearing new Spiritualized music in 2018 feels like a gift.
That feeling, of listening to music that was never promised, that is probably not deserved, and very well might be the last chance to spend time with an artist, permeates Spiritualized’s latest, titled And Nothing Hurt in a play off the famous Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse Five quote “everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.” For a life that has been notoriously plagued with pain, the title rings as a fantasy and feels particularly at home as the album deals with its creator’s own aging body and mortality with an unflinching nature. “I didn’t want to be fighting against my age; it’s very much about acceptance,” Pierce said in a statement about the album, adding, “and not with any dissatisfaction either – I’m not raging against the inevitable.”
It’s this backdrop that makes a line like “But if you want wasted, loaded, permanently folded / Doing the best that he can / I’m your man” from single “I’m Your Man” sting a little sharper. When so much of rock and roll is burdened with self-inflation, or at least some illusion of grandeur, Spiritualized operates in quite the opposite manner. There is hope in the music’s modesty, in Pierce’s own realizing of his limitations and the battling through it.
The prime example of this is how the record was created. For the first time as Spiritualized, Pierce became a solo artist, forced to record virtually every sound himself over the course of years in his apartment and nearby studios, the result of recording on a tight budget over a prolonged period of time. The task then becomes making And Nothing Hurt sound like a full-fledged Spiritualized album even without the resources he was used to having.
But the album rarely, if ever, betrays this fact. Pierce is still awash in huge orchestral arrangments, melodies that are rooted in the music he grew up with, and big rock moments meant to be performed in large spaces without anything holding it back. Only late-album track “The Morning After” struggles with this task, where Pierce’s voice sounds just a little too separated from the music behind it, the chasm of separate recording sessions to large to traverse.