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Inspiring love and discord.

Byline: By Luke Edwards

Electronic soul masterminds or inaccessible and over-indulgent? Luke Edwards tries to find out the truth about Spiritualized.

Jason Pierce is the sort of musician capable of starting an argument at a dinner party. Nothing strange in that, of course, after all musicians are notorious for their hedonistic lifestyles.

A musician's life is full of parties, award ceremonies and less structured excuses for over-indulgence when one too many sherbets in a room full of fragile egos and dogmatic principles is enough to cause a row.

The difference with Jason and his band Spiritualized is that they would not even have to be at the dinner party to cause the row.

Spiritualized are one of those bands who split opinion, not just in the music press, but among more humble and less pretentious listeners as well.

There are those, as with one reviewer commenting on their sup posed seminal work, Ladies and Gentleman, we are Floating in Space, who see the band as being pretty much the greatest thing since sliced bread, or the musical equivalent - The Beatles.

The Guardian said: "It is fitting that 30 years to the day since the release of Sergeant Pepper, Jason Pierce delivers a work that comes close to capturing the spirit, the scale, the beauty and the impact of the defining album of the sixties moment."

Elsewhere, back in 1997, the band were labelled the creators of electronic soul and the destroyers of musical boundaries.

The music press fell over themselves to lavish praise on Jason and his pals, Ladies and Gentleman topping the end of year polls in such re spected specialist music publications as New Musical Express, Mojo and Q.

While never quite receiving the same lavish praise, it was a similar story with their 2001 follow-up, Let It Come Down, while last year's Amazing Grace once again attracted enthusiastic reviews among their followers.

The only problem is, where Spiritualized enthrall and entice, they are also capable attracting very different receptions.

As one commentator wrote in The Journal last year: "In light of the rave reviews they receive and the fanatical following they have, there must be a mind altering substance which makes Spirtualized sound incredible ... unfortunately I still haven't discovered what it is."

There are those of us who argue, that Pierce is a self-absorbed, self-obsessed, self-loathing art student whose material is inaccessible to all but the most finely tuned of ears.

For raw sound translate to disjointed, loud, messy and self-indulgent. For raw emotion read suicidal lyrics which make Radiohead sound like The Tweenies.

To compare the music of Spiritualized to that of The Beatles is like comparing the Morris Minor to the Ferrari - it is not even in the same league.

Rarely has there been a band which has provoked such widely differing opinions, but, as they say, it is better for an artist to provoke any reaction than to provoke nothing at all.

Spiritualized play live at Northumbria University on Wednesday.
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Title Annotation:Ents Music
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 19, 2004
Words:496
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