J. SPACEMAN of SPIRITUALIZED: As comfortably numb as always
By Aaron Richter
As we all know by now, new releases hit record-store shelves and digital-download services each Tuesday. So every week self-titled presents a new release you’d be stupid not to own (Buy It), one worth checking out if you’re the curious type (Burn It) and something you might have heard about but probably should avoid (Skip It). Simple, ain’t it?
The Virgins, The Virgins (Atlantic)
There isn’t a dull moment on this record, but here are 10 easy reasons to love the Virgins:
1. â€œShe’s Expensiveâ€
Vocalist/songwriter Donald Cumming sings like a soul-smacked Elvis Costello, bending once or twice into tasty Ted Leo territory–an impressive improvement from the early demos Cumming circulated of several songs.
2. â€œOne Week of Dangerâ€
A stupidly simple, exhilarating cock-rock riff. Get your vicarious NYC living on–like Sex in the City, only sexier.
3. â€œRich Girlsâ€
The hilariously nonchalant sing-spoken section where Cumming points out a broken mirror on his bed and tells his friend to stop being such an asshole all the time.
4. â€œTeen Loversâ€
The lyrics contain the term â€œDTF.â€ If you don’t know what that means, you should re-watch Superbad.
5. â€œFernando Pandoâ€
Rock appropriations of reggae are usually horrific (see: the Police). But Cumming’s vocal dips and bends are too charming for this to be anything less than fantastic.
6. â€œPrivate Affairâ€
The album’s 43 billionth coke mention. Saucy.
7. â€œHey Hey Girlâ€
The group’s most â€œmatureâ€-sounding joint. If Tom Petty didn’t lick donkey ass, he’d probably write choruses like this. Pure power-pop sing-along juiciness.
8. â€œRadio Christianeâ€
The Strokesiest of this batch that will inevitably be tagged as thus. All the elements are there. If this had been on First Impressions of Earth, haters wouldn’t have said that album sucked so hard.
9. â€œFast Timesâ€
Again, something about vicarious living…
10. â€œLove Is Colder Than Deathâ€
A tender step-back, breather moment. Are those toy saxophones? Sexy!
Spiritualized, Songs in A&E (Spaceman/Fontana International)
Talk about bleak. Listening to Spiritualized‘s Songs in A&E is like Fox Mulder falling through space on the opening credits to The X-Files after that damn awful John Doggett took over for the rogue agent in the series’ later seasons. Sample lyric from song three, â€œDeath Take Your Fiddleâ€:
â€œI think I’ll drink myself into a coma / And I’ll take every way out I can find / But morphine, codeine, whisky they won’t alter / The way I feel now death is not around / So death, take your fiddle / And play a song for me / Play a song, you used to sing / The one that brought you close to me / Play your song and I will sing along.â€
We feel like we’re hosting The Chris Farley Show: That’s awesome, man. This sixth full-length–and first since 2003’s Amazing Grace–rolls through songs of despair and helplessness, tinged with a wink of defiance, as Spiritualized bandleader Jason Pierce, aka J. Spaceman, survived a deadly illness that halted his work on this album. His struggles ring nakedly throughout the tracks, punctuated by short â€œHarmonyâ€ interludes. The specter of death hasn’t loomed this largely over an album since Warren Zevon’s The Wind–released just two weeks before the singer’s death–or Johnny Cash’s sessions with Rick Rubin.
Bonus reading: A.D. Amorosi’s fantastic Q&A with J. Spaceman in the debut of our digital magazine, where he confronts and contemplates his drug legacy, the devil’s handiwork and the illness that nearly killed him
Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)
Doesn’t Sup Pop already have a My Morning Jacket (or two)? Fleet Foxes, the Pacific Northwest’s third Jim James â€œcoverâ€ band, is the most aimlessly wandering of the gaggle, blending in budget, blah Forever Changes jaunts through poppy fields and tracks for your grandfather to fall asleep on the front porch to. Please, let’s officially retire â€œgrain-siloâ€ reverb.