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.