Beachwood Sparks – Something to SMiLE about

Beachwood Sparks – Desert Skies


There are two iron laws of rock music. The first is that any band which has broken up but where at least a majority of its members are still standing will eventually get back together again. The Eagles. The Police. The Stone Roses. The Smiths think they’re an exception, but they’ll succumb. The second is that any lost album will never remain lost forever, unless the artist knows it’s a real stinker. Smile was eventually finished, of course, because it’s a true classic. Patty Griffin’s Silver Bell was released only a few weeks ago because it’s well worth it. David Bowie’s Toy remains, thankfully, unreleased. Beachwood Sparks’ Desert Skies can now be added to the list of lost albums that finally saw the light of day. And very welcome to the world it is too. Recorded in 1998, it was shelved prior to the release of the self-titled ‘debut’ in 2000. A number of the songs originally slated for Desert Skies found their way on to their first proper release. The good news is that they sound different here. Really different. And better. Much better. On the self-titled debut, the twang was in full show. Here, it’s a much rockier guitar that dominates. Also, the songs were shorter. Here, they get stretched well out. On the debut ‘Desert Skies’ itself didn’t make the three minute mark, whereas here it reaches nearly five with three quite separate musical acts. In fact, the willingness to experiment within the confines of a single song is the big revelation here. The start of ‘This Is What He Feels Like’ has the same beginning as the equivalent take on the debut, but then it takes off and goes in an entirely different direction, leaving the familiar version far behind. Beachwood Sparks are now two for two. Some years ago they split up and went their separate ways. Last year, they reunited and delivered Tarnished Gold. Now, knowing that they had good material in the vaults, they’ve just gone and released if not a long-lost classic, then at least a mighty fine album.

Pitchfork review

Paste Magazine review

CMJ review

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