Sparklehorse 'Good Morning Spider' - Review by Robert Porter

Depression. Not something I ever feel when listening to this astonishing record. Aggression, love, hatred, superiority, and just about every other deep felt emotion possible - yes, but never depression. Funny that because; give a Sparklehorse record, any Sparklehorse record, to most people and the first thing they'll say upon listening is "It's very depressing isn't it."

Undoubtedly much of the best music on this album was written in fits of deep felt despair, the despair of knowing that life will never let up, never give you a break, that your mind will always be there to constantly question everything, to push you ever onwards, never satisfied. The kind of mind that can drive a man to an early grave a la Cobain. But music which is as beautiful and uncompromising a release of emotion as this is rewarding not depressing.

Critical acclaim is taken for granted by this band. Undoubtedly genuine, the music and gently hushed vocals ooze reality to a frightening degree. What Mark Linkous really craves, however, is understanding. The knowledge that his listeners are empathising and identifying with his every word no matter how concealed it is in vivid imagery. Anybody who, upon hearing this record, does not feel the least discomfort, but rather, as I do, feels edified, fulfilled and moved, has my utmost sympathy. A record like this can only be fully appreciated by those who've experienced the same internal torture that Mark Linkous has and consequently will never receive the universal acclaim it deserves, but rather a respectful admiration from afar.

Taking all the best elements from their equally brilliant debut "Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot", "Good Morning Spider" comes across like an underground Radiohead freed from backroom production. Whereas Thom and Co. have moved away from their own collective demons to take on more worldly matters in the phenomenal "OK Computer", Mark is still far too heavily weighed down personally to start worrying about the rest of the world. If a criticism could be aimed at "OK Computer" it is the absence of the personal touch and heartfelt emotion that lit up"The Bends".This was of course, entirely deliberate, in an effort to stand detached from the world around and view it critically, as an outsider, much like a Henry James novel. This could never be said of Sparklehorse.

"GMS" begins with "Pig": The best opening track to an album ever bar none. Sounding like an even more aggressive (if that's possible) update of The Pixies "Planet Of Sound", this record sets the tone (if not the tempo) for the rest of the album. "Pig" is as eloquent and vivid an attack on normality as you're ever likely to hear. Linkous tells of his burning desire to "be a pig", "fuck a car" and "be a stupid and shallow motherfucker now!". The message being how infinitely more simplistic life would be if he never felt or thought about anything like the average drunken lad or 'redneck' you meet on a Saturday night intent on using his car as an extension of his penis. If Sparklehorse scare the pants off the listener with the spiky distorted 3 chord splutter and all too genuine threat of "Pig", they equally ably soothe and caress further into the album. "Maria's Little Elbows" is particularly beautiful with it's gentle pace, shimmering acoustic guitar and lilting vocals. "Come On In" is a religious blessing in the form of a string led lullaby, "All Night Home" more of the same with Mark reminiscing over his youth and "Hundred's of Sparrows" a charming love song and close cousin to "Saturday" from "Vivadixie...".

Sparklehorse tread many different musical paths throughout both this and "Vivadixie...." and only on the distorted pop of "Ghost of his Smile" are the results anything short of spectacular. Elsewhere "Saint Mary" stands out as Mark's spooky, clinical images and memories of his days recovering in a London hospital are given voice. Central to this album both chronologically and spiritually is the experimental fusion of "Chaos of the Galaxy / Happy Man", the former being a childish but spooky keyboard drone and radio noise that fades in and out as the classic rock of the latter comes in. In essence this is Mark saying I can afford to write a song as brilliant as "Happy Man", disect it and reassemble it any way I wish and still make it sound violently affecting. He's almost challenging the listener to actually not like one of his songs, but you just can't; that's how gifted he really is - he couldn't write an average song if he tried. The cries are still there however as Linkous screams "All I want is to be a happy man". Perhaps the "Chaos of the Galaxy" is the enemy he sees in his battle to be just that, hence its constant invasion of the song.

You will not hear a better, more affecting record this year, but if all is well in your life and Chris Evans is lightly amusing away in the corner, don't buy it.

Perhaps on second thoughts, you are the ones deserving of my pity.