Brighton beat Manchester United 4-0 on Saturday. It was only the second time I’ve seen them win all season as I missed two matches when I was taking COVID precautions. It was obviously great to see an entitled team get thrashed but, despite the euphoria each time a goal went in, I didn’t feel like I fitted in. It appears that, for a lot of people, victory over one of the “big six” teams in English football gives them a license to express their inner stupidity. I shouted with excitement, I sung “Sussex By The Sea” and I jeered Ronaldo when his free kick sailed several miles over the top of the goal. I’m not suggesting that spectators should sit in silence, politely applauding a sensational piece of skill. What I didn’t do was stand up with my arms flung wide every time a Manchester United player misplaced a pass and swear loudly about how shit they were. I didn’t gloat, I didn’t hug strangers, I didn’t sing a song about hating Crystal Palace. On the train home, I didn’t barge into fellow passengers and at Brighton station, I didn’t sing inane songs at the top of my voice. The noise of boorishness, stupidity and a misplaced sense of the importance of the occasion was, frankly, unbearable. It made me question how much longer I would be going to see Brighton play. It made me feel that I would have fitted in more easily if they’d lost 4-0. The abiding memory of the afternoon was, sadly, the noise made by idiots.
I’m not averse to loud noise. Thinking about Saturday afternoon and listening to the new Spiritualized album reminded me how exciting a loud noise can be. During our second trip to the USA, Paddy and I stayed in Flagstaff, Arizona. Having thrashed him at pool and drinking huge quantities of something the Americans call beer, but I call lager, I heard the sound of an Amtrak train approaching Flagstaff station. Rushing down to the crossing, I managed to film the train arriving. The sound of the “whistle”, the noise of the train and the clanging of the warning bells made by the crossing combined to make a very exciting sound.
I’m sure this isn’t true, but it’s almost as if Jason Pierce (the leader of Spiritualized) heard the sound of my video and incorporated it into the opening of “The Mainline Song/The Lockdown Song”. The opening three minutes (“The Mainline Song”) is an instrumental which incorporates the sounds I heard at Flagstaff into a sensationally exciting opening. Jason Pierce recorded the sound of the train himself “on Route 66, outside LA” – maybe it was in Flagstaff? The last three minutes (“The Lockdown Song”) is an exhortation to a loved one to spend the evening in a city with the singer.
Spiritualized have now released nine albums since 1992. Three of their albums have reached the UK Top 10. Their album titles generally have a literary reference. The title of “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space” is taken from “Sophie’s World” by the Norwegian philosopher and author, Jostein Gaarder. This is a book that has sold over 40 million copies. Spiritualized’s previous album, released in 2018, was called “And Nothing Hurt“. In 1969, Kurt Vonnegut, the American author wrote a science-fiction, anti-war novel called “Slaughterhouse Five” and one of the lines from the book is “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt”. I love it that the titles of the last two Spiritualized albums, released four years apart form this quote, but in reverse chronological order. Jason Pierce says that he likes “Vonnegut’s cynicism and sarcasm”.
In 2013, Jason Pierce recorded a number of demos and when he came to record “And Nothing Hurt”, he found that he had enough songs for a double album. However, his record company felt that double albums didn’t sell and were only appreciated in hindsight. He was persuaded to work on nine songs, leaving another seven to be completed four years later on this album which has peaked at Number Five in the UK Charts.
The leader of Spiritualized is Jason Pierce, who, even at the age of 55, still likes to go by the name of J. Spaceman. However, they are a proper five piece band, with a constant lineup for over 20 years (with the exception of a change of bass player in 2010). Although they use an American spelling of the word “spiritualised” for their group name, they are a UK group, originally from Rugby. However, their music strikes me as exactly the sort of heartland rock music that The War On Drugs have perfected. Layers of keyboards, gentle vocals, choruses sung by choirs and constantly interesting instrumental additions all combine to make exactly the sort of noise that I feel I can fit right into. My musical guru, Peter, spotted some references to “Pet Sounds“, especially in the use of a bass saxophone. Wikipedia describes their music as space rock, art-rock, garage-rock or neo-psychedelia. I find it hard to understand how anyone could not instantly fall in love with the sound. The last part of the album form a trio of motorik-infused songs of high intensity that draw on the optimism that manages to shine through the acerbic nature of Kurt Vonnegut’s writing.
The noise made by Spiritualized is spectacularly pleasing to my ears.