Spiritualized, Fucked Up Inside, 1993

This live document is similar to the Tindersticks’ live album, The Bloomsbury Theatre, in that it was released in between Spiritualized’s first and second albums. The music is taken from concerts in LA and San Francisco, November 1992. It contains four tracks from Lazer Guided Melodies, two from Pure Phase and a Spacemen 3 song “Walking With Jesus,” from their album The Perfect Prescription, which All Music Guide describes as “practically the birth of Spiritualized.” I should probably get back into the Spacemen 3 catalogue one of these days. Fucked Up Inside may comprise only seven songs but it clocks in at 47 minutes owing to the two extended meditations on the second side. What’s worthwhile about this after the precise and technologically-enhanced sound of Lazer Guided Melodies is that it reminds you Spiritualized rose out of the ashes of a rock’n’roll band and that’s what they still are. ie. They weren’t about to go all dance-inflected electronica on us.

Originally Fucked Up Inside was some kind of mail order only release but I remember buying it on CD when it first came out and not liking it. I was still a bit green around the ears back in those days when it came to the white noise roar of what seemed to me like tuneless jamming. I soon sold my copy. Ridiculous, of course. Listening to it again now I can’t fathom how that could be. It sounds great in every respect. If you just sit around letting it wash over you, then it does almost literally wash over you – in waves and lulls. Back in 93 the Verve released an awesome two track EP called “She’s A Superstar” and I can hear a similar ambience of feedback drone with bluesy elements in some parts of this recording, the effects being an important enough feature of the album to warrant three effects pedals appearing in embossed silver on the album cover. Time to max out the volume, Bumstead…

Take Good Care Of It…  opens with a ringing three note organ melody and Pierce’s wavery vocal, the lyrics calling to mind The Beatles’ “The End” from Abbey Road:  “You’ve got a whole lot of love / Why don’t you give some to me / If you send some my way / I will take good care of it / For the love that you send / Will come back to you some day / And the good times you bring / I will bring to you some day.” Plucked guitar notes replace the organ which in turn gets replaced by churning power chords. These lyrics get repeated several times over in Pierce’s pleading plaintive voice. The song falls and swells in long slow waves of crest and trough. That faintly squealing organ warbles throughout. Nice opening. The organ line segues into the next track…

I Want You… opens with a shimmering sustained power chord but straight off this sounds lackluster compared to the awesome version on Lazer Guided Melodies. The speed is there, the rhythm and drums are all there, but for some reason it sounds a bit weak which I partly blame on the vocal – it’s not blended as well as it was on the studio version. Then we get a sax part warbling among the noise. Turn the volume up further and it sounds better. This being my favourite song off LGM I guess I’m a bit more critical. The version here seems short too. It speeds up towards the end and crashes, doing a huge burnout at the end. Lacks the majesty of the studio version, but it probably sounded better in the venue.

Medication… that churchy organ sound is back, whining beneath Pierce’s vocal before crashing into a huge drum beat and aggressive power chords on the chorus, and dying back to the quiet of a few moments ago. “Every now and then I get the urge to drive around / Get into my car and then I’ll maybe go up town / Take my medication / [something] / Spend the rest of the night waiting for it to wear off,” and the chorus: “I’m waiting for a time / When I can be without / These things that make me feel / This way all of the time.”  Lovely frilly sax part squiggling away in the mix. “Every time I say this I just know this time I mean it / But the feeling deep inside says it’s okay one more time.” Basically this pattern repeats – slow quiet verse part with huge surging stormy chorus, almost violent, replicating the drug addict’s inner conflict, frustration and release. “Makes me feel so good / Makes me feel so fine / Makes me feel so good / Leaves me fucked up inside.” Ain’t that the truth. In any case, this is a great number with a memorable tune and it rocks out pretty hard towards the end. Squealing sax and electric guitar lines weaving in and around each other as if competing for supremacy. Loving it.

Angel Sigh… shimmering organ and guitar part run through some kind of weird vibrato pedal. “Girl it’s like an angel sigh / When I see you walking by / Girl you know the reason why x 2.” Very quiet and then this bruisingly loud bass and drums pounding your head in. Very intense for a few seconds, then back to the second verse: “Girl you know I’ve nothing left / I’m just a feather on your breath / Girl you know the reason why x 2,” and wham, back into that extremely intense pounding beat. This is certainly way more intense than the version on LGM. (I always wondered if that title was also meant to allude to the abbreviation for “little green men”?) This turns into a heavy rocker for another couple of minutes pretty much repeating the same pounding rhythm.

Walking With Jesus… organ and guitars falling and rising through a loud opening. “I walked with Jesus and he would say / Oh you poor child, you ain’t coming with me, no way / He found heaven on earth / He’s gonna burn for your sins / But I think I’ll be good company down there with all of my friends.” Back to the churning guitar and organ parts. It’s a little difficult to catch the lyrics precisely. “Here comes the sound / Here it comes / Here comes the sound of confusion,” and that’s precisely what we get, with some serious wah-wah inflected stormy white noise, and that wild sax part, which fades back to just a bass and that same two-note organ part. So this song seems to be a foiled attempt at expunging some kind of religious guilt, a theme that will wind through much of Spiritualized’s work hereafter. It’s kind of defiant on the one hand but he seems unable to erase the profoundly buried beliefs instilled by a Christian society on the other, thus the confusion. Great song. Looking back over these first five songs, there’s a very clear structure being used time and again in these songs, always a quiet pleading or mournful verse followed by a pounding crescendo, often brief, but which eventually takes over the song. The theme of the highs and lows of drug addiction and its associated religious guilt is played out in this way.

Shine A Light (Clear Light / Clear Rush)… ah, a light church organ sound, a delicate guitar arpeggio, some twinkly bell sounds, followed by a tremulous airy vocal: “When I’m tired and all alone / Lord, shine a light on me / When I’m lonesome […something undiscernable…] / Lord shine, shine a light, shine on me.” The bass joins, the vibe remains chilled out. Guitar notes get more frenetic, the bass gets louder, the sax adds texture, the guitars gets even louder, the sax blows the whole thing to smithereens and the electric guitar goes wild as the whole song climbs into freeform heaven, shards of light ripping through clouds, vapour trails, screaming jet engines, a freefalling rhythm, a tumbling motion, head over heels as the free jazz effect dies out and we’re back to the ambient drone of the organ, a piping keyboard part, various sustained notes hovering and warbling in the mix, and Pierce’s whisper: “Shine.” This is ambience made interesting. Various effects that sound like tooting gulls on some brass instrument, each instrumentalist adding their own thing to the sound, and always the whine of that organ underpinning everything. I think that’s why I went off this the first time – the organ sound got on my nerves but now I’m guessing the effect is to conjure up some idea of a cathedral-like space. Those sheeny twinkly glass bell sounds continue, hi-hats, saxophone, a climbing helical six-note electric guitar figure winding through the middle of it all before the bass joins back in and grounds the whole thing back to earth. This track is nearly fifteen minutes long. These sounds continue in various permutations and waves, speed changes, intensity builds, drum beat gets harder and faster, aggressive guitar effects ripple through the mix as the whole thing brews up a miasmal noise of speed and screeching, crashing, which finally soars into free space, and wow, you just wish you’d been there, is all. Awesome noise. The crowd go wild. Some huge droning roar soon drowns them out…

Smiles… counted in on hi-hat, the final song begins with more of a warm feeling after the thunder and lightning of “Shine A Light’s” finale. “When you shine / You know you take / A massive part out of me / When you smile / You know you blind me / To all the horrors I see.” The vocal ends, and the bassist and drummer join together to create another thunderously racing rhythm, this time more like Grand Prix than Top Gun. Like, insanely fast. Given the lethargic feeling inherent in Pierce’s lyrical content, it’s amazing they have the energy to keep up this pace. Again, this goes into freakout mode, but mainly it’s the bass and drums that send this into overdrive, while the guitarists let loose a volley of feedback and distortion and the saxophonist adds that post-Ascension feel. This doesn’t let up either, for like six minutes or so. You’d probably need earplugs at a concert like this. It’s loud as jet engines as it burns out into a drone, and it’s all over. Applause. Whistles. Wicked stuff.

The only frustrating thing about this (as with most live albums) is that at the end of each song you hear the audience cheering and applauding and you’re suddenly reminded how lame this sounds on a stereo. No matter how much you turn up the volume it’s impossible to get a full sense of what the audience are hearing, or not so much ‘hearing’ but rather, experiencing. It would only be a year before we could hear the studio versions of “Medication” and “Take Good Care Of It,” on  the follow-up Pure Phase.

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About Alan Bumstead Vinyl Reviews

Alan Bumstead is a music fanatic who humbly adds confusion to the world with a string of album reviews written during real-time-listening in a stream-of-consciousness style, then edited for spelling, punctuation, flow and grammar. Apart from an additional introductory paragraph, the writing is improvised in time with the music. There is no re-writing. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In his book Moving To Higher Ground Wynton Marsalis says, "Because jazz musicians improvise under the pressure of time, what's inside comes out pure. It's like being pressed to answer a question before you have a chance to get your lie straight. The first thought is usually the truth." I like to think that's what Alan Bumstead's all about.
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