Alt-music one-man-band Sparklehorse veers between rock, punk and who-knows-what in "Good Morning Spider." In the sophomore album, Mark Linkous crafts a sonic extravaganza of brilliant music, strange and surreal and enticingly dark.
It starts off small in the opening minute of "Pig," then explodes into a rollicking staticky rocker. Following up are mournful laments like "Painbird" and "Sunshine," almost inaudible ballads "Saint Mary" and the funereal "Come On In," steady rock-outs like "Cruel Sun," and eerie panoramic sweeps "Good Morning Spider" and both halves of "Box of Stars." One of the strangest tracks is "Chaos of the Galaxy/Happy Man," which languishes in static for a few minutes before blossoming into a solid rock song.
Near-death experiences tend to change a person's life. In Linkous's case, it changed his music -- "Good Morning Spider" is warped by a near-death experience that almost killed him, and left him paralyzed for quite some time. So don't expect happy, perky music -- rather, Linkous seems to be exorcising his demons and experiences all in one swoop.
Like Neutral Milk Hotel, Sparklehorse makes the most of staticky guitars. It has a contemplative lo-fi sound, but is tinged with a few other things -- the bass, gravelly guitar and percussion are joined by violins, cello and organ, along with sweeps of static that give a surreal feel to this textured music. At times it's smooth, at times it's rough, but never ordinary.
His near-death experience shines through Linkous's songwriting, with lines like, "My bones wish to escape," the funeral tone of the children's-prayer-like "Come On In," and the wistful announcement that "All I want is to be a happy man." Even aside from the morbid beauty of these songs, his writing is evocative and entrancing: "A beautiful woman she rose/from the smoking waters of the lake/with a candle that burned in each palm..."
Rarely are so many beautiful songs linked together, and rarely is such raw emotion put into music. Sparklehorse's "Good Morning Spider" is a rare and treasured rock album, and deserves to be a classic.
on 20 March 2010
I was moved to write about Sparklehorse after hearing the sad news of Mark Linkous death. His band was never big news in the music press, so he was largely spared the indignity of having his depression romanticised for our benefit. What was obvious was that the beautiful, otherworldly music he created required considerable effort on his part, so for that we can only be grateful.
Probably my favourite record of his, Good Morning Spider, was created in the wake of a previous suicide attempt that threatened to leave him paralysed. It is record haunted by images of hospital beds and bodily failings, hazy in a kind of half light. Yet it is also tender and consoling, the most gentle songs here like fragile lullabies.
Painbirds lilts on a mournful riff before a lovely trumpet solo transforms the melody into something quite different and more uplifting. The song ends with a euphoric wash of strings and music box. Junebug is jaunty and joyous, bouncing on an irresistible melody. The acoustic Hey Joe is softly reassuring in the vein of a song like Everybody Hurts, (Michael Stipe was a vocal champion of the band).
At the same time, the album is also shot through with black humour and poisonous invective, as on the furious country punk of Pig and the funereal hospital ruminations of Saint Mary. The bleakly observed, chugging ode to depression Ghost of his Smile is playful yet deals in what was obviously a matter of great pain to Linkous. Elsewhere, Sick of Goodbyes and Maria's Little Elbows are simply fantastic songs, immensely tuneful, poppy folk rock.
Any Sparklehorse album is well worth your time, and it looks like this year will finally see the release of his collaboration with Danger Mouse and David Lynch, Dark Night of The Soul. It's a fitting tribute to a great talent.
on 19 December 2015
Im moved to write a review because good morning spider is beautiful. Painbirds is heartbreaking with the trumpet solo how sweet is that?! Buy it just for Painbirds but its all great anyway. All about mark linkous depression. I get the feeling he recorded this music in a wooden house in swampy marshland somewhere!! Mark linkous was great. He worked with daniel johnston and others and was a respected artist in his time. Good morning spider is a classic worth every penny.
on 26 March 2001
Sparklehorse are possibly my favourite band around today. Their style of music is best described as similar to Granddaddy in that it isnt conventional rock, pop or any other type of genre. In my opinion this album is a must buy as many music critics agree.
on 17 April 2013
as a lot of people who get to hear Sparklehorse. What a shame that Mark Linkous died.
Favourite tracks are Painbirds, Saint Mary and Sick of Goodbyes, which is a great piece of R & R. This is the third Sparklehorse album I have bought.
on 4 May 2016
A beautifully crafted, emotional journey. There is an intimacy that is central to this album. Nothing is missing and nothing excessive, and not a foot wrong. For me this is one of the best Lp's I have ever heard. Sunshine for me, is one of the most beautiful songs ever made. I have owned this since it's release, and lot's of other music has been and gone, but this one I will take to my grave.
on 12 August 2011
....and my personal favourite.
Have lived with this album since 1998 and in that time it has served as the soundtrack to so many moments in my life. At various points at least 7 tracks have been my favourite and even now after 100's of plays I find something new pretty much every time.
That there will never be another album by Sparklehorse is still something I find difficult to accept. That this album, this funny, brutal, terrifying and utterly beautiful work of art, exists makes it just about bearable.
Could not recommend any higher. It's a 5/5, a 10/10, a 100/100.
on 11 February 2000
Indeed, in Good Morning Spider there is a distinct possibility that the masses will be delighted with a record that takes modern rock music to previously unexplored territory. With the uprising of such obscurities as Guided by Voices and Ultrasound, Sparklehorse have created what both these bands ideolagies. Opening with the powerful guitar driven melody that is Pig, the tone is set for an album of intelligent pop-rock. Intelligent it is, but of the latter - well, this is a feature the band seem to have omitted. Omitted and replaced with a mix of folk and experimentation with mixers that collude to form a spectacularly fresh sound. Chaos... is a track of such understated complexity that it becomes two tracks in one - a definite theme of an album that is one of the finest of its era.
It is challenging to get to elated about it all, but rewarded should be the man who emplores you to spend your gold bullion on this. If you were to sit on the hand of God whilst smoking a cuban cigar and supping pints of fine ale, this would be on the Man's stereo. Sublime.
on 6 June 2014
New to sparklehorse and loved this album. Intensely different though out with a unique sparklehorse feel - great album a must.
This is very atmospheric music, still rock-based but encompassing pop, ambience and folk. The overall mood is melancholic. The sound blends well through uptempo tracks like Cruel Sun or Pig, beautiful ballads like Saint Mary & Come On In, to the more innovative textures of Sunshine & Ghost Of His Smile. It's an uneven album, though and probably something of an acquired taste. A couple of real gems here merit its four stars.