Because I Got High

White rock's (rare) incorporation of gospel choirs tends to be—Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is" to the contrary—mawkish and a little corny. When U2, for instance, remade "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" on Rattle and Hum, you could hear them "appropriating gospel"; thus, there was a whole lotta holy rolling down the aisles and under the pews, which only served to show how at odds the two camps were. In "Lord Can You Hear Me," Pierce utilizes the choir merely to enhance his group's fondness for drone. There's no melisma from the throng of voices here—everyone involved sticks to the simple melody line—and no diva jumps in front to grab the spotlight. So all the impact comes through in sheer force of numbers, hence volume. The result is an almost blinding example of white noise.

On the last Spiritualized tour, Pierce added a gospel choir for, among other things, a cover version of the Edwin Hawkins Singers's 1969 hit, "Oh Happy Day" (captured on Royal Albert Hall October 10 1997,better known as The Judas Concert). There he used the choirs in a slightly more traditional way, and as a partly tongue-in-cheek forgiveness move (confession for all those ingestibles, perhaps?), it was still surprisingly convincing. In "Lord Can You Hear Me," though, Spiritualized's achievement is much braver, and closer to what the Stones achieved with the London Bach Choir on "You Can't Always Get What You Want"; it intensifies their rock. Even more so than "The Twelve Steps," "Lord Can You Hear Me" goes a long way toward atoning for Pierce's previous hard-rock sins. Listening to it may or may not cleanse your soul, but it sure is a damn good way to test your speakers.

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