Creation Records boss Alan McGee once claimed that Jason Pierce makes a classic album every ten years and Spiritualized are as culturally significant as Neil Young. High praise indeed from the man that discovered My Bloody Valentine and Oasis, but it’s worth noting McGee is also the man responsible for inflicting 3 Colours Red, 18 Wheeler and BMX Bandits upon us. Close, but no cigar Alan. And no cigar for Mr. Pierce either I’m afraid, though strictly for health reasons. During the making of Songs in A & E, Pierce contracted advanced periorbital cellulitis with bilateral pneumonia, leaving him in intensive care and narrowly escaping with his life. Never one to shy away from a big theme – and always ready to plunder the depths of his personal turmoil for source material – Pierce’s life experiences litter the album, though not in the manner one has come to expect. While his near death experience is a publicist’s wet dream, many songs on A & E were actually conceived well in advance of his illness. Instead, traces of his suffering are evident throughout the production. Mainly his raw, untreated vocals that were seemingly ravaged by illness. The trademark Spectoresque wall of sound, perfected on 1997’s fantastic Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space is kept to a minimum, with Pierce favouring a more subtle approach, like the simple guitar, vocal and string ballad Goodnight Goodnight. Still weighed down by the recurring influences of soul, gospel, blues and rock n’ roll, Songs in A & E actually appears to lack the ambition, grandiose arrangements and embellishment of previous releases – it is rumoured Pierce encountered great difficulty when trying to complete the album. The scarcity of layers merely serves to highlight the principal weakness of Songs in A & E. The songs simply weren’t strong enough to begin with. The only real captivating moments of A & E are the six delicious little interludes scattered throughout the record, Harmony 1–6. Instrumental musings seemingly inspired by film director Harmony Korine (Pierce incidentally scored much of the soundtrack to Korine’s 1997 movie Mister Lonely). Songs in A & E is strictly one for the fans.