Songs in A&E (Fat Possum Records)

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Spiritualized and Fat Possum Records announce the reissue of Songs in A&E on June 21st, the latest installment of The  Spaceman Reissue Program: Curated by J Spaceman. Songs

 in A&E – completed in the aftermath of J Spaceman’s near death hospitalization – is a collection of graceful, country-influenced songs that circle on familiar themes of love, death, hope and hopelessness. The reissue has been remastered for vinyl by Matt Colton at Metropolis and features revamped artwork, including a new album cover. Accompanying the announcement are official videos for “Soul on Fire” and “You Lie You Cheat.”


Songs in A&E is a beautiful, chilling record, and it was very nearly the last thing J Spaceman would ever release. In 2005, with the writing and recording well underway, Spaceman was rushed to the Royal London Infirmary with double pneumonia. The new album cover for this reissue is a photograph taken as he lay in what his close friends and family feared might be his deathbed. “We thought he’d gone,” recalled bandmate John Coxon at the time.


While Spiritualized devotees will be used to listening to the beautiful darkness of Spaceman’s words, the fact that he wrote these things before he got sick only serves to make them more impactful. The recovery process for Spaceman was hard. Weighing just 85 pounds at 5’ 10”, he had to find the physical and creative strength to finish the record, and this came not only in the form of friends and family, but also by working on other projects, most notably his collaboration with Harmony Korine (he wrote soundtrack music for his film Mister Lonely), and playing live again.


His eventual return to the stage came when he played with Spiritualized guitarist Tony Foster at a Daniel Johnston tribute show in London. “I was underweight and fragile and this was a gentle way of getting back on stage. It wasn’t my show for a start, and it was a small band, just myself on acoustic and Tony on a Fender Rhodes but it turned out to be really beautiful. Originally it was just going to be the two of us, but we ended up getting the strings and the girls’ choir and because it worked, it led to other things.” What followed was a string of Acoustic Mainline shows which opened with “Sitting on Fire,” a song that would end up on Songs in A&E. The album version is one of the most intimate vocal performances he’s ever delivered. It’s another plea to be released: “Set me free / ‘Cos I do believe / It’ll burn up in me / For the rest of my life.”


These shows and the life lived before and after hospitalization all informed Songs in A&E. It sounds like dying and coming back to life; from the bleakest despair to the highest beauty on songs like “Soul On Fire” and the opiated ballads of “Waves Crash In” and “Don’t Hold Me Close” (featuring backing vocals from Harmony’s wife Rachel Korine). There are also garage songs like “I Gotta Fire” and “You Lie You Cheat;” super ragged, like a howling 70s Iggy Pop. “I remember saying at the time, “ he concludes, “that I felt like people who have these kinds of experiences become more charitable. They change or whatever. But I think I came back partly to the same disappointing person I was before. And sometimes I still feel the same. But a lot of people worked really hard to get me out of there and I also realized just how lucky I was.”


The country element was informed by “The Devil,” a small black 1928 Gibson acoustic Spaceman had bought in Cincinnati while the band toured the Amazing Grace record. After the songs poured out of the guitar, he recorded most of what you hear in Nottingham.


The first stage of The Spaceman Reissue Program included the release of Lazer Guided Melodies (1992), Pure Phase (1995), Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space (1997) and Let It Come Down (2001) over the course of 2021, and celebrated the 20th anniversary of Amazing Grace with a reissue in 2023. Spiritualized’s most recent record, Everything Was Beautiful, was released in 2022 to great acclaim.