The Complete Works Volume 2
knew how I was going to approach this review. I love Spiritualized, I’ve loved all of their albums, and this is the second of their two career-to-date summations, bringing together on two discs (each) the assorted single/EP debris that we fans love but that most can do without.
The tracklisting didn’t inspire confidence; in addition to 7 songs I already have on albums (albeit great songs like ‘Electricity’ and ‘Do It All Over Again’), there were masses of instrumental versions of songs I knew, live tracks, Japanese versions and the like. All told, out of the 26 tracks on two discs there were exactly three tracks I hadn’t heard some version of before, and one of those was a version of the X Files theme (which turned out to be great).
In short, I expected this to be a close kin to The Complete Works Volume 1 for me; a collection of great songs that didn’t demand focus, that I could sink into in soporific bliss. But if part of the attraction of the multiple versions of, for example ‘Feel So Sad’ offered on Volume 1 was in just blissing out and almost ignoring the music, that sensation is nowhere to be found on Volume 2.
The first disc offers the rest of the Pure Phase material that didn’t make it onto Volume 1, and then covers the whole of the Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space era. You get three versions of ‘Broken Heart’, two without vocals, to luxuriate in. It’s some of their best material from the era, the disc flows brilliantly, and if disc two had been of the same caliber Volume Two would be an excellent collection, I would have given it an 8, and the review would be done.
But disc two wound up being the best single disc summation of Spiritualized I’ve ever heard. Let It Come Down was, I thought, a great album (although somewhat in the shadow of Ladies And Gentlemen…), but its b-sides and rarities get the whole disc to themselves, and the result is jaw dropping.
Those instrumental versions, although the same as the originals as opposed to radical sonic overhauls, completely transform the feel of the songs. ‘I Didn’t Mean To Hurt You’ sounds like a death march, ‘Anything More’ like the slow, mournful waltz of ghosts. The live version of ‘On Fire’ begins with what sounds like the bands chasing demons around the stage, and then finally settles into a far more incendiary version of an already terrific song. A wrenching, narcotic live take on ‘Do It All Over Again’ interpolates bits of ‘I Didn’t Mean To Hurt You’ to great effect. And their version of ‘Amazing Grace’ is as fierce and faithful as Hendrix’s assault on ‘The Star Spangled Banner’, wrenching every bit of pain and glory out of the whole standard. And that’s not even to mention the two new songs, ‘Rock And Roll’ and ‘Going Down Slow’, both of which are excellent. ‘Going Down Slow’ in particular, a plea to God for things like foolishness, dishonesty and helplessness, rides the same string-kissed crests that the best Let It Come Down tracks do.
As good as the first disc is, the second disc is so completely essential because it gives equal time to all sides of Spiritualized’s sound; the pristine studio creations that sound like Phil Spector’s wet dreams and the awesome power of their live performances, the skronk and the glide, Jason Pierce’s fits of joy and despair. It balances all of these elements perfectly, and leaves you wanting more.
It’s crucial to both discs here that they’re collected in the way they are. Although The Complete Works Volume 2 reveals the uniformly stratospheric quality of Spiritualized’s non-album tracks, it’s not until they’re intelligently arranged like this rather than encountered piecemeal that the full impact, from the pristine beauty of ‘Stop Your Crying’ to the howl of the live ‘Come Together’ to the grief of the instrumental version of ‘Anything More’, really hits you. And when the last notes recede, I’m forced to admit that The Complete Works Volume 2 presents an airtight case for Spiritualized as one of the best bands in the world. Ever.
STYLUSMAGAZINE.COM'S ALBUM OF THE WEEK: MARCH 1 - MARCH 7, 2004
Reviewed by: Ian Mathers
Reviewed on: 2004-03-01