When I was in seventh grade, I bought the Boys movie soundtrack, a great compilation that jumped from jubilant to jaded every three minutes. "Sad and Beautiful World" by Sparklehorse happened to be track seven, paired against the likes of Paul Weller, Portishead, and The Stone Roses.
Sadly, I left Sparklehorse in the lurch when it came to pursuing sounds beyond the single. But as I waded in a sea of fans in the High Noon Saloon on Tuesday night, I regretted not having ventured further down Sparklehorse's lonely road.
Sparklehorse is the score to everything that makes you grit your teeth. It's music that hurts, but it hurts so good. Although deeply rooted in grunge, there is a certain low-fi modernity reminiscent of old Modest Mouse and new Sonic Youth that makes them fit perfectly into the current indie hipster scene. There could not have been a better concert to attend on Kurt Cobain's 40th birthday.
The show only lasted a mere hour -- including the encore -- but was solid throughout. Whines from the audience sadly overtook the recorded music played after the final set, but personally, I was happy to be left wanting more.
Subtle nuances were key to balancing the perfectly orchestrated Sparklehorse sound. The pre-pubescent backing vocals of his female bassist made lyrics like "don't take my sunshine away," on the tune of the same name, stand out against rebellious instrumentals.
Incredibly lofty drumming provided a dark, full beat that made otherwise melancholy songs pulsate with deeper angst such as on "Apple Bed." Front man Mark Linkous sang his trademark static edge, a distorted prickle similar to trees rustling in a darkened wood that was scary, melodic, lonely, and bittersweet.
The ability to conjure a variety of emotions in a cosmic stew of swirling guitars, heavy-handed bass lines, feedback effects and ghostly vocals really echoed the emotional duality suggested in the track that first introduced me to them. Songs such as "Hammering the Cramps" made me want to write a sad poem, dance around the room, and drive really fast on the Beltline all at once.
The ability to pull out these sentiments without sounding wretchedly twee, emo, or screamo signifies Linkous has mastered channeling the emotional palette by making accessible yet realistically complex music.
The perks were definitely more audible than visual, with the entire band being especially reserved and restrained. Catching one of Linkous' occasional sheepish grins from under that floppy mop of hair was a perk for those closest to the stage. Although I would never categorize this as one of the best shows I've seen, it is one of the better shows I've heard.