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Pops Vinyl Review: Sparklehorse - Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot

This is the first review in a while. Blame retirement! Recently I went to a special showing of an excellent documentary about the American “band” Sparklehorse featuring the remarkable, but troubled, Mark Linkous. It was by a pair of British film makers (not American) as he had a cult following in the UK and was largely unknown in the USA. It covered his four albums and Vivadixie was the beginning in 1995.

There is a noble sereneness that permeates throughout and that is necessary as the dreamlike lyrics demand our attention. Many of these are dredged up from the inner, secret core of his mind which he has allowed us special access. The price of one admission is your mind. Check out “Weird sisters” with the opening lines “The parasites will love you when you’re dead, hiding all the rattles in the bed.” However this is not a depressing album; it is deeply reflective and visually imaginative but with sombre overtones.

Musically it is stripped back acoustic with flashes of electric, sometimes distorted guitars on the rarer aggressive tracks. Mechanical phantasmagoria is inserted to complement the music. The vocals are sometimes a whisper or phased; it is as if he doesn’t want us to know the real Mark Linkous.

I love writing about great, unknown American bands and even greater albums that are largely ignored because of the propensity of dross churned out in the land of the soundbite. Here in the UK we at least get the chance to hear hidden gems like this. I was lucky enough to meet Mark and see him perform twice with his band in the “Empire”, Belfast before he found the need to take his own life. His music will live on and the dross will fade.

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