Sparklehorse - Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot

Most or us, at one time or another, when pondering the meaning of life or something equally futile, have wondered what it would be like to be someone else, to see what they see, taste what they taste, hear what they hear, feel what they feel. Well, believe me, if there's one other person you never wanna be it's Mark Linkous.

Wouldn't mind his voice - the saddest in the world, betraying so much self-pity that it can't help pleading even though Linkous' self-loathing dictates that it's always distorted into a dry, whispering whine. Wouldn't mind his looks - tubercular cool. But wouldn't want his mind. No sir. Wouldn't want to be trapped inside this attic where the dust gets in your lungs and the spiders devour flies, where the oil stains on the floor resemble dried blood, and where every disintegrating thing is a mirror to the soul. This is where Mark Linkous lives. He haunts the nooks and crannies of these warped country ballads like a ghost. These songs that say stuff like, "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a house," and "The parasites will love you when your're dead lalalalala," and "I want my records back/And the motorcycle gas tank I painted black". Songs that are fragile as a bouquet of rotting roses, heavy American gothic masterpieces delivered so hushed you can hear a feather drop. These songs revere Neil Young (the burned-out basement from 'After The Goldrush' makes a guest appearance), claim kin to Kurt Cobain, The Flaming Lips and Syd Barrrett, and make J Mascis sound like Gaz Coombes.

And when it's time to rock out, Linkous get jovial about getting drenched ('Rainmaker'), or 'Hammering The Cramps' or leaving his baby on the side of the highway because she didn't see things his way (the marvellous 'Someday I Will Treat You Good'). Like Beck's 'Loser' on prescription downers, 'Vivadixie...' is such a sustained hit of self-obsessed misery, it's an absolute hoot. When the lachrymose steel guitar finally enters to tempt our tear ducts 12 songs in (Heart of Darkness' no less) you feel like howling, "Hey, what the f- took you so long?"

Linkous is like the clown on the cover, exacting his warped revenge on the universe within which he just cannot function. It's as if 'Vivadixie..." is saying, "I parade my bitterest anguish before you all and you gobble it up as entertainment and dance. Told you life's tragic! Told you life sucks! Uh, hoorah!" Phew, what a record!

'Vivadixie...' is unconditionally recommended to all those who feel that life just might be one bad joke being played on us all and are learning to laugh about it because, well, what else is there to do? The last time Mark Linkous played in Britain, he fell over and passed out in his hotel room after the gig. When he came round some hours later, his leg had been trapped under him and it took a series of emergency operations to avoid amputation. Mark Linkous is now in a wheelchair. Bad karma or what? The next Sparkehorse record's gonna be so great!


Steve Sutherland