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This review was first published on CLUAS in 2001
Other albums reviewed in 2001

Sparklehorse

A review of their album 'It's a wonderful life'

Sparklehorse - Its a wonderful lifeThink for a minute how annoying it is when your friends decide to tell you about their exciting encounters with celebrities. You're trying to enjoy your Bacardi Breezer and they won't shut up about bumping Pat Kenny at the local gym, or trying to chat up that children's show host in Tramways. Unsuccessfully of course, somehow she got away, but do you really want to hear about it?

Tragically record companies are the same hence the cover sticker proudly declaring "FEATURING PJ HARVEY, TOM WAITS AND NINA PERSSON OF THE CARDIGANS" - surely if The Cardigans were that great, we'd know the name of the lead singer. But anyway, the point is that artists seem to need reassurance before the market will release the album.

Fortunately Sparklehorse conforms to the vision of Mark Linkous throughout. The title track starts matters with what sounds like a bizarre walk in the forest, a distant voice and electronic noise in the background seeming unsure of itself. As the album progesses however, a more common occurrence is lush harmonies floating along, and stories about a particular time and place. No major statements or axes to grind, just the odd recollection and reverie, as if from a diary kept over a number of seasons.

The contributions from the guests fit within the general scheme of drums, bass, organs and (seemingly compulsory) electronic noise all around. PJ Harvey adds a driving guitar line, Tom Waits a spot of muffled yelling, and Nina Persson breathy vocals - and, surprisingly enough, Thom Yorke does not appear on any track.

The end result is an album best described as not quite all there, more honestly as a little bit demented and prone to outbursts of bizarre behaviour. But worth keeping around anyway because it's a lot more entertaining than most records on your shelf.

Ian Stalvies

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