The last several releases by former Spacemen 3 guitarist Jason Pierce's psychedelic-gospel outfit Spiritualized -- Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, Royal Albert Hall October 10 1997 Live, and 2001's Let It Come Down -- have been as much about Pierce's tendency toward staggering production costs as his desire to capture in song the sad, sweet ruination of recreational drug use; Pierce made no secret of the fact that he'd hired more than 100 musicians to realize the symphonic arrangements he heard in his head for Come Down. So the suits at Arista must be thrilled that Pierce's new album is simply a two-disc collection of rare and out-of-print material from the band's early days -- no enormous studio bill means total profit!
As it turns out, there's plenty for the rest of us to appreciate. The Complete Works kicks off with "Anyway that You Want Me" and "Step into the Breeze," both sides of the first Spiritualized seven-inch from 1990. What's remarkable about the tunes is how expansive a sound Pierce was already mustering; the Spacemen were no slackers in terms of twisting sheets of raw noise into pretty shapes, but on "Anyway" (a cover of a Troggs hit from the mid-'60s), Pierce opens up that guitar squall wide enough to introduce a string section and lightheaded vocals. He crams more than that into the 13-minute "Feel So Sad," which erupts into a frenzy of woodwinds at the five-minute mark, then recedes into a pool of picked guitar before the strings come in. And he indulges baser desires on "Run," a single from 1992's Lazer Guided Melodies that juices J.J. Cale's "Call Me the Breeze" with a cool motorik groove, and "Good Dope/Good Fun," the band's garage-rocking half of a split 1993 seven-inch with Mercury Rev.
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There's collectors-only nonsense here, for sure -- two versions of the ambient drone titled "100 Bars," for starters -- but most of Complete Works proves that Pierce's talent does in fact transcend the expense account.