Jason Pierce, founding member and front-man for alt-rock band Spiritualized, contracted a life-threatening liver disease while recording his newest album, Sweet Heart Sweet Light.
Being forced to take experimental medicinal drugs to cure his sickness, Pierce — the only constant member of the group for over 20 years — produced the record under the induced delirium of his live-saving medication. The resulting album finds Pierce struggling to come to terms with love, death and spiritual salvation while riding the waves of his medicinal highs.
Sweet Heart Sweet Light weaves together pop ballads reminiscent of The Beatles tainted with that heroin-addled flare found in underground pioneers The Velvet Underground. Hazy happiness washes over morose pain like soothing drug highs, a formula Pierce helped create through heavily delayed and fuzzed-out guitar riffs as one of the founding members for space-rock pillars Spacemen 3.
“Hey Jane,” an upbeat narrative about a woman running from her problems, starts the album off after an uplifting intro of crescendoing string instruments. Pierce, with his laid back vocals, reveals his love for the lost spirit: “Hey Jane where you going today? You took a call then you ran all day/ That clock going 110/ I never said I’ll get you back again.” While Jane flees from her troubled reality, Pierce chases after her as though she will be his savior — a symbol for the light Pierce searches for but cannot find as he fails to capture Jane.
A stunning contrast to Pierce’s saddening themes, “Hey Jane” is filled with lush orchestral arrangements and gospel choruses that suggest anything but problematic lives. Midway through the song, the rolling rhythm comes to a halt as noise erupts from all instruments before the serene redemption of gospel-style choirs bring life back into the love-lost song.
In “Life Is a Problem,” Pierce attempts to call for Jesus, seeking guidance to the redemption of Heaven from a life of Hell: “Jesus please be my automobile/ Won’t get to heaven unless God’s at the wheel/ Send me your chauffeur, I will get in/ Jesus please drive me away from my sin.” Stripped down to subtle cello and violin melodies, the song is Pierce’s last chance for a way out of his miserable life.
For a record so overcome with grief and self-pity, Sweet Heart Sweet Light succeeds in shining a comforting light for those suffering. Pierce slowly realizes the key to his salvation over the album’s 11 tracks, transplanting the false hope of drug highs with music that hits the soul and transcends it to near Heavenly levels.