While some people imploded in the lockdowns and isolation of the epidemic, others were thriving. “I felt like I’d been in training for this my whole life” says J Spaceman. He was referring to his fondness for isolation and when you reframe loneliness as “beautiful solitude” then it isn’t so bad. He would walk through an empty “Roman London” where “even the sirens had stopped singing” and where the world was “full of birdsong and strangeness and no contrails.” He used the birdsong walks to listen and try and make sense of all the music playing in his head. The mixes of his new record, a ninth studio album, weren’t working out yet.
Spaceman plays 16 different instruments on Everything Was Beautiful which was put down at 11 different studios, as well as at his home. He also employed more than 30 musicians and singers including his daughter Poppy, long-time collaborator and friend John Coxon, string and brass sections, choirs and finger bells and chimes from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. So there’s a lot going on.
“There was so much information on it that the slightest move would unbalance it, but going around in circles is important to me. Not like you’re spiraling out of control but you’re going around and around and on each revolution you hold onto the good each time. Sure, you get mistakes as well, but you hold on to some of those too and that’s how you kind of… achieve. Well, you get there.”
Eventually the mixes got there and Everything Was Beautiful was achieved. The result is some of the most “live” sounding recordings that Spiritualized have released since the Live At The Albert Hall record of 1998, around the time of Ladies & Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space.
The opening track “Always Together With You” is a reworking / supercharging of a track originally released in demo quality in 2014. This new version is a perfect Spiritualized song; a breathtaking, hard-edged, psychedelic pop tune where themes of high romance and space travel collide.
The artwork is designed once again with Mark Farrow. If you buy the vinyl you can pop a pill box out of the sleeve, revealing gold foil underneath, and assemble the Braille-embossed little thing and put it somewhere in the house. The box set has 8 of them. Literally a boxset. It looks more beautiful in the flesh. “Farrow and I were talking about what we should do and we just said, ‘It’s called Everything Is Beautiful, how could you not have a pill?’”
All these layers, all these details, the year-long mixes, the making sense of it all and the lives lived within these lyrics; for somebody so famously unconfident of his own abilities, isn’t this a punishing thing to keep doing? “Yeah, but I like what I do. There’s a line from Jonathan Meades that’s about having all the attributes to being an artist. ‘Paranoia, vanity, selfishness, egotism, sycophancy, resentment, moral nullity and more idiot than idiot savant.’ “And that’s what it feels like, this kind of thing. You’re your own worst enemy and biggest supporter. “There’s a ‘Of course this is worth it. It’s me’ and then this kind of deep doubt of ‘What the fuck is this all about?’ “And then ‘Why is it important?’ and then knowing there’s no easy answer. But it’s there. I know it’s there.”