#472: 2001, Sparklehorse, Eyepennies

by George_East on May 28, 2012

I’m not sure whether everyone does this.  You buy an album on the back of a good review, or because someone recommended it or something.  You play it once, or maybe more, but for whatever reason it doesn’t really grab you and you file it in your CD collection.  Chances are it will barely see your CD player again.  I do this all the time.  I must have hundreds of CDs that have not been played since shortly after I bought them.  They languish on the shelf (in alphabetical order by artist, and then chronological order, of course) gathering dust. Then occasionally, only occasionally mind, but occasionally you will choose an album at random, or maybe not quite at random but instead because something happens or someone says something that sparks an association.

It is exactly what happened recently for me with Sparklehorse’s It’s A Wonderful Life.  It was a record that got great reviews when it came out.  I bought it and played it a handful of times.  It was ok but it didn’t really make much of an impact. I guess at the time The Strokes‘ take on uber-cool New York art rock was where it seemed to be at;  not the melancholic lo fi indie sounds that seemed a little, well, 1990s.

Then I filed it.  I hadn’t played it in, I dunno, a decade.  Then at the Allthatsleft annual reunion a couple of weeks ago we got on to the topic of rock n roll suicides.  There was one name that was on the tip of my tongue but I just couldn’t quite reach it.  When I got home, I remembered who I had been thinking of: Mark Linkous – the man who was Sparklehorse.  It resulted in me digging out the album and giving it a spin. What on earth was I thinking at the time?  It must be one of the albums of the decade.  I have been playing it on heavy rotation ever since.

This track is one of my favourites – though the whole album is astonishing. Linkous, over a beautiful piano and guitar backing, sings in his characteristic fragile almost whispered vocals about his death (metaphorically I assume). I read the song as being about leaving an old life behind and moving on – it is a song aching with unarticulated regret. The effect is made all the more powerful by the wonderfully bluesy backing vocal part sung by PJ Harvey – perhaps the object of that regret. It makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.

Eleven years on, one random drunken conversation and a new discovery of an old album I had forgotten all about.  It is what listening to music is all about.

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