For Spiritualized’s 1997 third studio album, creative lead and vocalist Jason Pierce looked to create an album that could bring a unique sound to effectively provide therapy for the listener. The album would study feelings of melancholy and loneliness reflecting Pierce’s mindset at the time of recording. This is a very naked emotion expressed throughout the album, especially in tracks such as: ‘All of My Thoughts’, ‘Stay with Me’ and ‘Broken Heart’.
Indeed Peirce had suffered a broken heart in the run-up to the album upon hearing the news that his girlfriend at the time – and keyboard player for the band – Kate Radley, had not only had an affair with Richard Ashcroft of The Verve but had secretly married him in 1995 behind his back. Although Pierce has since said that the songs were mostly written before the break-up, it is safe to derive that on a subconscious level the songs may have been prophetically mouthing his suspicions.
The title of the album was taken from Jostein Gaarder’s 1991 philosophical fiction novel Sophie’s World from the line: “Only philosophers embark on this perilous expedition to the outermost reaches of language and existence. Some of them fall off, but others cling on desperately and yell at the people nestling deep in the snug softness, stuffing themselves with delicious food and drink. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen,’ they yell, ‘we are floating in space!’ But none of the people down there care.” This context of philosophers feeling perhaps a tad lonely in their pursuit of knowledge is reflected in the lonely tone of the music throughout the album.
If you are feeling lonely and worthless, however, fear not, Spiritualized produced the cure through not just sound, but vision too. The marketing for this album coupled with the novel and quite frankly astounding music made for an incredible work of art. The cover art for the album was a triumph due to its intense simplicity which draws the eye in an unexpected manner. The artist Mark Farrow was inspired by the words “music is medicine for the soul” which he recalls Pierce saying when they first met to discuss the aesthetic direction for the album. With this, Farrow set about designing the sleeve in a way that made the album appear like a medical product.
The navy and white cover for the album posits the album as a box of pills, with the caption at the bottom of the sleeve stating “1 tablet 70 min” alluding to the notion that the LP itself is a tablet – quite a mouthful but worth every bite. With the original time running just over 70 minutes, Pierce purportedly decided to cut the recordings to hit the more aesthetically pleasing dosage of 70 minutes.
This packaging made for a great concept as a design feature but was taken a step closer to insanity, or artistic genius depending on where you stand, with the limited edition CD release. This release comprised of all the songs from the album appearing as a tablet of their own over a collection of 12 three-inch CDs. This collector’s item has seen many fans saving up their pennies to inconvenience themselves in the name of art. I would say you’re probably best just sticking with the record, but the concept rings true when you play this album because the emotive beauty of the music does seem to offer a form of therapy that one likely couldn’t source elsewhere.