Spiritualized: Best When It Breaks Down

When the Spiritualized song “Hey Jane” began streaming online a few months ago, a friend of mine said it was really good...and then it went off the rails. I told him I thought it didn’t really get going until the moment where it seems to fall apart. “Hey Jane” starts off as basically the same song Jason Pierce has been writing for the past 20 years with Spiritualized and for ten years before that with Spacemen 3 — a minimal two- or three-chord update on the Velvet Underground. (He even calls the Jane of the title “Sweet Jane” at one point.) Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great song. But I’ve always thought that the most interesting parts of any Spiritualized record are the moments when the formula starts to break down.

There is a real breakdown at about the four-minute mark in “Hey Jane” when the guitars and drums spill off into noise. The song then reconstitutes itself as a Stereolab-style one-chord krautrock number. But for me the song doesn’t really take off until almost another three minutes of this has gone on, when backup singers start harmonizing and Pierce begins repeating, “Sweetheart, sweetheart of mine.” It’s hard to tell exactly what changes in the song, but it slowly turns into something extraordinary. I watched a video of the band playing it live in an old Irish church, and when they got to that part I could swear they were going to start levitating.

Again, this is the same kind of thing Pierce has been doing forever: achieving transcendence through repetition. It’s rock as a kind of meditation, and Pierce is the high lama of the practice.

Nikki Lane also performs.

SPIRITUALIZED: Belly Up Tavern, Sunday, May 20, 9 p.m. 858-481-8140. $20 presale; $22 door.

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