3. Let It Come Down (2001)

Faced with the impossible task of following up Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, Jason Pierce did what many bands do after their defining album: he went even bigger. That didn’t seem possible. In a lot of ways, Ladies and Gentlemen and Let It Come Down are the What’s the Story Morning Glory? and Be Here Now of the Spiritualized catalogue, the only problem being that Ladies and Gentlemen is already sort of a (more accomplished) Be Here Now, which destined Let it Come Down to be really ludicrous. And, somehow, it worked.

It shouldn’t, but maybe it does because it’s over the top in a different way. Ladies and Gentlemen will probably always remain the most stylistically diverse and expansive Spiritualized album, but Let It Come Down just sounds huge, and expensive. Utilizing some 120 musicians, Pierce crafted an album that was pure bombast in a way that was slightly new for Spiritualized. There are almost no remnants of the noisiness of free jazz improvs of other Spiritualized outings. Instead, this stuff is big in a Spector-ized wall of sound kind of way, Pierce’s increasing focus on gospel taking him back to the forms of big orchestral pop songs from the ’60s and ’70s. This album is pure bombast, but this time it’s all swelling strings and movie-soundtrack horns and timpani.

Pierce went this route when dealing with subjects that would seem to warrant the most subtlety. Addiction is dealt with directly on “The Twelve Steps” and “The Straight And Narrow.” “Out of Sight,” one of the best tracks here, fixates on the same sort of self-destruction that had popped up throughout Ladies and Gentlemen and would later get a much dirtier treatment on “This Little Life of Mine.” Elsewhere, the album is dominated by lovelorn songs coated in enough orchestration that in lesser hands would easily spiral into the saccharine, and yet Pierce’s perennially gravelly and world-weary voice seems to ground it all. Let It Come Down is an overwhelming experience, the sort of the album that is just so much that it can be hard to take in one sitting. You can’t really tell if the resulting excess is religious or decadent, and that’s maybe what makes it such a rewarding listen. Spiritualized is always most interesting when the profane and sublime are crashing together.