Psychedelic space rock and panoramic expressions. Gospel choirs and 18-month mixing sessions. Hundred-piece orchestras with their sweeping strings. These are a few of Jason Pierce's favorite things. Or they were.
A major departure from 2001's ambitious, massively orchestral Let It Come Down, Spiritualized's fifth studio album (which arrives barely two years after its predecessor -- is Mr. Spaceman actually getting prolific on us?) mostly foreswears the usual overdubbed pomp for the crackling energy and true-to-the-moment emotion that can only come from five guys and a handful of guest musicians hashing out a tune in the morning, recording it live in the afternoon, and possessing a fully finished track by bedtime. On record as having been inspired by the hit-it-and-quit-it recording habits of the White Stripes, the quintet pushed itself toward a completed disc after just three weeks of work -- or roughly the same amount of time Pierce normally spends obsessing over the tone quality of a French horn in post-production.
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Amazing Grace is half searing-guitar boogies in the vein of the band's classic "Electricity," half tender, numinous ballads, and its scarcity of elaborate symphonics reveals what long-time fans have always known: Pierce is damned good at writing unique, soulful, memorable songs. The blistering "Never Goin' Back" and "This Little Life of Mine" outgarage practically any "Return of Rock" band of the past two years, while "Oh Baby" and "Lay It Down" are as divine and blissfully transcendent as anything the band has ever recorded. Compared with the epic scope of Spiritualized's previous outings, Amazing Grace is like a well-penned haiku: far simpler but no less profound.