Happy And Bleeding

Listen for cameos from Thom Yorke and Vic Chesnutt.

Charlottesville, Va.: home of Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous, Silver Jew

Dave Berman and, um, Dave Matthews. Matthews' noodle-boogie conjures

Charlottesville's fresh Southern air; the Silver Jews'

country shack-rock brings to mind a rotting fence and a rustic barn

on the outskirts of town. Good Morning Spider, on the other hand,

evokes the side of Charlottesville that makes you want to stay shut

inside your apartment, locking out that fresh air and drowning your pain

in a bottle of Southern Comfort.

Album-opener "Pig" is bloated with punk-rock angst. There are frayed guitar

chords, buried-in-mix-thunder-drums and distorted vocals that scream, "I

wanna be a pig/ I wanna fuck a cow." Though surely it's merely an editing trick, you can almost hear the threshold of rage reach a boiling point when Linkous and friends crash into the mellow, whispering preciousness of "Saint Mary," the album's second track. Just like his virtually unpronounceable 1995 debut

(Vivadixiesubmarine- transmissionplot), on Good Morning

Spider, Linkous walks a line between opposing sonic and aesthetic

poles. In other words, he continues to sputter out of control, keepin'

it rock-rock-rockin' til the cops come a knockin' (on and on til the

break of dawn) for all the melancholy people who'd rather not hang out

in "the place to be."

Good Morning Spider is a pretty accurate aural

representation of the alcohol-fueled Linkous I saw perform at NYC's Bowery Ballroom last November. His set was a sprawling,

beautiful mess. He folded anger, vulnerability,

ambivalence and depression into his uneven performance.

Those adjectives pretty much sum up his new album, which is packed with

gloomy songs like "Saint Mary" and "Hey Joe" (no, not the Jimi "Hendrix,

maaaan" song). But as any student of pop music knows, pain and torture

often translate into great music (which isn't to take anything away from

good ol' fashioned, well-adjusted fun, something that can produce

wonderful music as well).

Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot contained what is essentially

Linkous' aesthetic and philosophical manifesto, "Sad &

Beautiful World." That song's lovely melody and downcast lyrics

set the standard for a genre I've dubbed "pretty sad

music" ("pretty," as in gorgeous, and "pretty sad," as in unhappy, but

not in a melodramatic Morrissey way). There are so many lovely songs on this album I finally had to stop counting, but "Sick of Goodbyes,"

"Sunshine," "Hey Joe," "Come on In" and "Ghost of his Smile" are the best of the best.

In the end, what makes Linkous' music so affecting is that he manages to find (slightly dusty and, yes, relatively dim) rays of light amidst darkest despair.