Speakers Push Air

It’s A Sad & Beautiful World
March 7, 2010, 1:36 pm
Filed under: Miscellaneous

Actually too choked to write anything much at the moment, but a lot of years ago I wrote this regarding the first Sparklehorse album, Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot. Some of my thoughts have changed, but the album is still the one that means the most to me, and genuinely kept me going at the darkest point of my life.

I’d had the album for a while – when I was a journo, things had a habit of ending up on a shelf while I got around to them – and while I knew it was good, it hadn’t really taken up residence in my brain in any significant way… and then, in the winter of 1997, all my shit hit the fan at once (rather like now, in fact)… Walked out on a home and a girlfriend and promptly lost my job as well… and just lost myself in a blizzard of base speed and coke and pills and bad techno..

But then.. But then.. at 4am. Or 8am. Or whenever I crawled home, I started listening to the Sparklehorse album. Over and over and over…and realised I had never heard anything like it… Recorded by a jaded, disillusioned recovering smackhead, in a shed recording studio, it seemed at times to flirt with the alt.country tag (whatever that is!) but was really something other.. scarily slow, stilted ballads where the singer/mainman Mark Linkous sounds like he’s about to nod out.. caustic, blaring guitar numbers that could sound like 1980s Tom Waits and 1970s Neil Young, often at the same time.. the most intriguing and elliptical lyrics, which rarely made any logical sense but had an amazing sense of mood and at times had a kind of Bunuel/Dali quality (“you play great keyboards of horses’ teeth)…

The mood, overall, being one of desperate sadness. Songs like ‘You Are The Most Beautiful Widow In Town’, ‘Sad And Beautiful World’, ‘Someday I Will Treat You Good’..

Saturday is a fine example.. over a desperately sweetly melancholic backing, Linkous claims that

“you are a car
you are a hospital
I’d walk to hell and back
to see your smile
on Saturday”

But in the end, as great as all this is, it’s the production that gets you. I’ve never been someone hung up on production – Steely Dan make me puke my ring and I’ve never been one to obsess about snare sounds – but this is different. The care, the love, the attention to detail is just breathtaking.. every spare moment has little squiggles of noise, little distortions and jerks that surprise you even on repeated listenings. There are brief track segues of toy trains and men discussing guns and barely heard answerphone messages.. ghosts in the machine and things slipping in through the ether..

And on those horrible winter mornings where I wondered what the fuck I was going to do to get off my friend’s sofa and back into the world, this album took over my brain and became like part of my DNA, part of how I looked at things…

A few Sparklehorse live shows added to the wonder and the awe. Then two more albums – Good Morning Spider and It’s A Wonderful Life which were great, but not as great.. I hear he’s working with Fennesz now, which would be interesting.

But that album, it will never let me down.

3 Comments so far
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[…] more on Sparklehorse at the Old Record Club and Speakers Push Air […]

Pingback by All I Wanted Was To be a Happy Man « People’s Republic Of Disco

I’m with you. I’m also too choked up, and for me too Vivadixie… is a really important album in my life, and one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to was a Sparklehorse gig.

Comment by Albert Freeman

[…] the days when the greatest album ever made stops being Sparklehorse’s Viviadixie, it tends to be In An Aeroplane Over The Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel. An ‘obscure’, cult […]

Pingback by Where Have All The Carrot Flowers Gone? « Speakers Push Air

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