Picking up where Lazer Guided Melodies left off—which is to say, in church—Sweet Heart Sweet Light features plenty of talk about Jesus and Mary in the lyrics, though never in a preachy way. More than any specific vision of God, one gets the sense that Pierce’s higher power really is rock ’n’ roll, both in the way he attempts to reconnect with his own musical past (the album was recorded in the midst of select performances duplicating Lazer Guided Melodies in its grand wall-of-sound entirety onstage, and he’s talked a lot about the effort he to up the wattage on all of his melodies) as well as with all of the music that’s he loved throughout his life, from the nod to “Sweet Jane” and pretty much all of the Velvets’ canon in the epic “Hey Jane” to the Motown bass lick in “I Am What I Am,” and from the “Dead Flowers”/Rolling Stones-do-country lilt of “Freedom” to the —no kidding—snippet of “Mary Had A Little Lamb” at the end of “Headin’ for the Top Now.”
“Life is a problem,” Pierce sings at one point, and such is the suppressed pain and world-weariness evident in his voice that you cannot doubt he believes that’s true. But with survival has come the ability to place the problems of existence in their proper place, and to express an optimism that all of us can emerge on the other side. “Living my life on a prayer now/Got no right to be here… Freedom is yours if you want it,” he sings. That sentiment permeates these 11 brilliant tracks, and for the first time, you wind up feeling as encouraged by a Spiritualized album as you are dazzled and disoriented by the swirling psychedelic symphonies.
Spiritualized, Sweet Heart Sweet Light (Fat Possum)
Rating on the four-star scale: Four stars.