Nick Morgan and crew
Review by Dave Broom
Old Market, Brighton
October 9 2006
owls have been talking to me”. I think,
Serge, that you’ll agree it is an arresting
line. It was, I reckon, the one which first made
me aware of the work of Mark Linkous aka Sparklehorse.
Actually the ‘horse are a band but since
he changes the lineup every few months let’s
just accept the fact that it’s him.
Mark Linkous, second from the right
been quiet of late.. five years between the last
album [‘It’s a Wonderful Life’
.. ahh the irony of that title] to the new, rather
gorgeous, ‘Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly
of a Mountain’ .. just the odd appearance
on a compilation (I recommend his heavily treated
version of Johnny Cash’s ‘Dark as a
Dungeon’) but he’s back in Brighton
This is the third time I’ve headed along the
beach to see him. The first was not long after his
accident. You haven’t heard of the accident?
He collapsed having self-medicated (let’s
just draw the veil over what and how) and fell back,
unconscious, with his legs trapped beneath him.
This meant he was wheelchair bound for a long time,
but he didn’t stop performing. After all,
there was the first album to promote [that’s
so he took to stage in wheelchair, complete with
guitar fx pedals and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s
on optic. The support I seem to recall was provided
by the late lamented Neutral Milk Hotel [but we’ll
do them some other time, shall we?]
The last time was about three years back on a humid
summer night. He turned up with two other musicians,
no record to promote, about three new songs and
whispered his way through a quiet yet suitably warped
set. The Welshman and I fell over him on our way
out of the gig, slumped against the back wall sipping
And now? Well as you might be able to tell from
that, you’re never quite sure what you’ll
be getting with Mr Linkous. The rumour is however
that he’s happy. According to Mrs Broom if
this is indeed the case then I won’t like
him any more, but the Welshman, Shaggy and I take
the chance anyway.
Sparklehorse, 'Dreamt for Light Years in the
Belly of a Mountain'
is a support act whose name has escaped me even
less than 12 hours after the event. Something to
do with crayons is all I recall. The highlight of
his set is a xylophone solo. Some people cheer.
We get another beer. Sparklehorse take the stage.
Drummer / pump organ player (not an easy task that),
pedal steel, keyboards / guitar / vocals, bass and
Mr Linkous nattily attired in a black suit and waistcoat
and Aviator shades. The bass player is also in black
and the keyboard player in a shiny dark mod suit.
The drummer however rather lets the side down by
wearing a white t-shirt, though I suspect a suit
is somewhat restrictive when playing a drumkit.
I can’t see the pedal steel player as he is
at the back and obscured by the 6’ plus Linkous
who smiles, shyly, says hello and gets cracking.
The rumours appear to be correct. It’s never
easy to decipher his lyrics .. there were always
a lot of spirits, birds, insects, animals flying
around [horses still appear regularly .. and he’s
got something about their teeth] but also ditches
and (a)basements; now though there are frequent
references to the sun. He appears to be enjoying
himself. The music? Well where do we start. Think
of Jim White’s skewed take on country/blues,
stir in Neil Young [both pastoral and experimental],
some gorgeous pop riffs, a nod to Jesus & Mary
Chain, a touch of Tom Waits, some hints of the Flaming
Lips/Mercury Rev (though he was an influence on
both of their recent music rather than the other
way round) .. and you might get an indication. Even
in his thrashiest moments you can tell he has a
way with a melody.
The set mixes all the new material with plunderings
from the first three albums (vivadixie features
heavily) so it is loud and heavy, then suddenly
quietly introspective, vocals often barked through
a distorting mike. He rounds it off.. as usual ..
with ‘Homecoming Queen’ with the audience
singing the chorus. “Weird, but deliciously
so” is Shaggy’s take on it and for a
man who makes parsnip beer that’s pretty much
on the button. Welcome back Mr Linkous, glad that
you’re happy. - Dave Broom
the index of all reviews:
Nick's Concert Reviews
There's nothing more down there...