Reviews

Spiritualized: 16 May 2012 - Austin

A performance from a band like Spiritualized relies heavily on its setting and it is difficult to consider a poorer choice of venues in town then this metallic chrome warehouse.

Spiritualized

Spiritualized

City: Austin, TX
Venue: Emo's East
Date: 2012-05-16

It is strange to see J. Spaceman surrounded by so few friends. Typically, Spaceman --Jason Pierce and lead singer of British space rock outfit, Spiritualized -- is flanked by quite the posse, especially during the 2009 epic run of performances of the group’s breakout album, Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space. During that handful of shows, Pierce was rolling thirty plus deep with a string section and gospel choir accompanying him. Tonight, the rotating cast of Spiritualized is sparse with four musicians and two background singers. The sparseness of the group’s roster is more than compensated by the vastness of tonight’s venue, the recently opened Emo’s East.

The original Emo’s was an Austin institution for decades located on the famed Red River Street strip. The doors shuttered in late 2011 with plans to reopen in a larger space in East Austin. A performance from a band like Spiritualized relies heavily on its setting and it is difficult to consider a poorer choice of venues in town then this metallic chrome warehouse. From a distance the site’s contours striking resemblance to the spaceship from the film Flight of the Navigator is impossible to ignore and despite the appropriate celestial connections, this is not the room to play from this reverb heavy catalogue.

The group opens up with “Hey Jane”, their first single from their recently released album, Sweet Heart Sweet Light. The lead guitar’s repetitive crescendo carries the track along with a chugging drum beat, while the female back up singers flank Spaceman’s lines with effortless "la la la’s". The song reminds me of a Velvet Underground song if the band preferred speed to their heroin but with the recorded cut coming in at a shade under nine minutes, the live version too proves to be a couple minutes too long.

The crowd, however, seems not to care. The average age of tonight’s attendee is well past the normal Austin “indie” show, but Spiritualized was never the flavor of the week even when they were critical darlings some fifteen years ago and the room is full of smiles and plumes of smoke.

The underrated “ Rated X” is played early on in the set to audible surprise and gratification. The song opens with a hazy intro set to a subtle organ and what sounds like a guitar sputtering out of gas. Slowly the song opens up in triumphant jubilee while Pierce murmurs slowly “and memory holds the hurt inside/ regret creeps up on you” and somehow that pain becomes as blinding and awe inspiring as a shining star.

“I Am What I Am” is arguably the highlight of the evening and another track from the new evening. The song is sticky with a swagger that Spiritualized has not owned for many years. Much like its title, Pierce is not making any excuses for what he is all about. Yes, he loves his gospel music and his screeching guitars. He knows exactly what he likes and what he doesn’t and he isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade (“I am the pound of flesh that signifies the sun before you told”). The accompanying visualization on the screen is a journey through a computer programmers dream and loos like a sketch from the world of TRON.

When the famous recorded voice message to the title track of Ladies is played, the room erupts in approval. The song gives the feeling of being inside a warm house as snow slowly falls outside of your window. “All I want in life is a little bit of love to take the pain away” and everybody in the room seems to relate while also admiring the courage for such a stark admission. “Only fools rush in,” Pierce warns yet this audience knows there is not a more enjoyable sensation to commit to than that total surrender.

To nobody’s surprise and certainly nobody’s complaint, the band closes their encore set with “Cop Shoot Cop….” When the quiet jangle of the tambourine that teases the intro of the song is heard from the darkness of the stage, several shouts are heard from the crowd. This song still plays like you are listening to it for the first time even all these years later. The quiet-loud-quiet composition was first templated by the Pixies and copied by literally every band ever since though no band plays that hand with the restraint that Pierce and his troupe of miscreants do. When they go for loud they go for broke. Like a shootout in a studio basement apartment with 2,000 mercenaries or a screaming match between two fed up lovers, nobody has any expectations of leaving this room unscathed. Spaceman makes no apologies -- for his drugs, his loneliness, his sickness or his hopes. And pleading for your lovers hand has and never will sound so chic.



Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

Great Peacock Stares Down Mortality With "High Wind" (premiere + interview)

Southern rock's Great Peacock offer up a tune that vocalist Andrew Nelson says encompasses their upcoming LP's themes. "You are going to die one day. You can't stop the negative things life throws at you from happening. But, you can make the most of it."

Music

The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.

Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Music

Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.

Music

Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.

Music

Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.