Just Say Yes: Pure Phase by Spiritualized, Hot Press, 1995


A FRIEND of a friend of a passing acquaintance of a wayward second cousin of mine, who vaguely knows someone who accidentally imbibed some illicit substances once, tells me authoratively that Spiritualized Electric Mainline’s wistful, wasted rock’n’roll only really hits you hard when you have E, quite literally, coming out your ears.

As a non-partaker—I have neither the spare twenty-five-pound notes nor any desire to find myself feasting on rat poison—who has, nonetheless, been shackled to the stereo by Pure Phase for several days now, this raises one perplexing question: it gets better than this? Say no to drugs, kids; you’ll never leave the house (until you have to sell the CD player).

Drugs, particularly that ole devil called heroin, are all that The Artists Formerly Known As Spiritualized sing about, pretty much. This in itself is a turn-off; there’s nothing terribly glamorous about sexlessness, death and an absence of gastrointestinal motility. So when I think of, say, Kurt, it’s the Master Of Subversion on Top Of The Pops that I allow to come to mind, not the broken man perched on the toilet, straining till his veins popped, gulping down warm milk and laxatives.

This means that if Pure Phase was just a diary of Jason Pierce’s fondness for opiates, it’d be—to us non-usersboth completely meaningless and horribly voyeuristic, worthless either way. But it’s not. Really, though Jason may be too wired or indulgent to know it, it describes in sometimes painful, sometimes attractively masochistic detail that uniquely human foible, self-destruction, and as such is almost universal.

‘Medication’ (“Every day I wake up/And I take my medication/Spend the rest of the day/Waiting for it to wear off/Every night I stay up late/And make my state more desperate… Makes me feel so good/Leaves me fucked-up inside,”) could just as easily have been written by anyone bereft of respect for their organs, heart or otherwise: an alcoholic; a rejected romantic suicidally obsessed by the one he can’t have; Mr Lifto out of the Jim Rose Cicus Sideshow; a toenail-eater, and suchlike.

‘Let It Flow’, the soulful, ghostly ode to shooting up that is currently Number One in the indie charts, is even more weirdly enthralling, because while ‘Medication’ makes helpless apologies, this declares, to thunderous applause from the surrounding forest of Fenders, “Here it comes, there it goes . . . All I wanted was a taste/Just enough to waste the day/Just enough to make me sick . . . I’d do it all again.”

It’s all very sad, but things perk up with ‘Lay Back In The Sun’, the first and most fun summer singalong of 1995, and plummet once again with ‘Spread Your Wings’, an awesomely beautiful hymn to a deceased friend (or maybe not, but I’m afraid that at the moment I am, to paraphrase the Nolan Sisters, in the mood for death songs), while ‘Feel Like Goin’ Home’ picks up my current favourite problem, ie What The Fuck To Do About Getting Old Besides Scream Like A Mad Person, and takes it somewhere that I certainly can’t put into words.

So, we’ve agreed that you don’t need drugs to love the sprawling, torrential noise of Spiritualized Electric Mainline. What you do need is to be in a dark room, alone or with friends, in a very bad humour, all tense and attentive, with some large loud speakers and a willingness to let a mere rock’n’roll record speak for the side of you that you like to keep to yourself and, then, to sweep you off your feet. When all this has been arranged . . . Just Say Yes.

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