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Spiritualized's Five Best Lyrics About Drugs

Wednesday, Mar 21 2012
It's not entirely rare to find a music artist who is defined by a particular concept. However, there may not be one as rigidly and as hysterically defined as Jason Pierce. For the Spiritualized frontman, that concept is addiction. Of course, Pierce is largely responsible for this; his lyrics conjure up images of Romantic poets like Percy Bysshe Shelley, complete with all the laudanum partaking and the desire to explore those intoxicated, inner realms of existence.

However, one could also pin partial blame on admirers of Pierce in the music press. Remember that scene in Being John Malkovich where the flick's namesake crawls into the portal to his own mind? And the dialogue consists of everyone saying "Malkovich" over and over? When fans and writers listen to Pierce speak during interviews, it's almost like a similar phenomenon takes place. "Drugs? Drugs drugs drugs. Drugs ... drugs. Drugs!" Over the course of Spiritualized's career, we've found it exceptionally difficult to discuss and dissect his art without mentioning narcotics.

In keeping with this practice -- and in honor of the group's new release, Sweet Heart Sweet Light, whose release has been pushed back to April 17 -- here's a list of our five favorite drug-related Spiritualized lyrics.

"If I Were With Her Now" (1992)

"You gave me drugs / You said would cure my ills / They may cure yours / But mine were with me still" Pierce likely didn't intend it as such, but these lines sound a tad Richard Ashcroft-like. So what happens when the drugs don't work? Well, you just ingest larger quantities. And on a more regular basis. Quick aside: Back in 2005, these lyrics took on new meaning when Pierce was hospitalized with quite serious ills -- double pneumonia -- and nearly died. "I was wasted," he said in an interview with the Guardian, "but I feel wasted quite often."

"Come Together" (1997)

"So little J's a fucked-up boy / Who dulled the pain that killed the joy / And little J's a fucking mess / But when he's offered just says yes" Swear to God, roughly one-third of Erik Morse's book Spacemen 3 & the Birth of Spiritualized is dedicated to cataloging the drugs Pierce and former bandmate Pete Kember's consumed. Growing up, the pair truly said yes to everything: acid, mushrooms, cocaine, amphetamines, prescription drugs, heroin. Our personal favorite anecdote involved Pierce and Kember sniffing butane (butane!) and the latter hallucinating so deeply that he believed a "berserker Viking" was about to kill him.

"The Straight and the Narrow" (2001)

"The trouble with the straight and the narrow / Is it's so thin I keep sliding off to the side" In Morse's book, Kember recalls an incident where Pierce and he swallowed a bit of palfium, a narcotic that packs more of a punch than morphine. Pierce began to overdose and only a quick-thinking Kember, who plunged his mate in a bathtub of cold water, prevented an O.D. catastrophe. True or not, it may be the only story we can recall where Pierce's habit brought him to the brink of death. He's either exceptionally lucky or made of adamantium. "The thing is, I never usually get ill," Pierce said in that aforementioned interview with the Guardian. "I mean, I'm like Keith Richards."

"I Think I'm in Love" (1997)

"Love in the middle of an afternoon / Just me, my spike in my arm, and my spoon" Pierce's wince-inducing honesty when examining addiction has certainly been matched by other artists (hear Tommy Johnson). Many have been just as unapologetic about their chemical dependency (Lou Reed). However, has anyone romanticized it as thoroughly and effectively? Pierce has never been particularly interested in depicting addiction as self-destructive behavior, in detailing the hell that often follows the dope-induced heaven. Instead, he's elaborated on how drugs can bring serenity to a fractured mind, deliver a creative spark, or whisk one away on a journey they would never experience straight. The dude was "Just Say No"'s worst nightmare.

"Home of the Brave" (1997)

Sometimes have my breakfast right off of a mirror / And sometimes I'll have it right out of a bottle" Pierce is often guarded during interviews, refusing to chat about family and other personal topics. However, he's clearly made it his mission to keep his music as frank as possible. He may not always be honest with himself, especially when it comes to his cravings and habits, but he certainly has been with listeners. Even if it means confessing that you snort coke just moments after you've rubbed the sleep from your eyes.
Wed., May 23, 8 p.m., 2012

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Ryan Foley

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