Sparklehorse's 1996 full-length debut, Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot, has even more sad, beautiful, weird moments of spacy, rural folk-rock than it does letters in its name. Primarily the project of singer/songwriter/guitarist Mark Linkous, Sparklehorse's sound embraces impossibly frail, cobwebby ballads like the album opener "Homecoming Queen," "Most Beautiful Widow in Town," and "Heart of Darkness"; sun-drenched, noisy pop like "Rainmaker" and "Hammering the Cramps"; and noise blasts like "Ballad of a Cold Lost Marble" and "850 Double Pumper Holley." The album's most powerful moments borrow from folk and country traditions, alluding to their universally understood poignancy, while updating and personalizing them with spacy arrangements, distorted vocals, and slivers of feedback. "Heart of Darkness" and "Homecoming Queen" in particular have a woozy, late-night sweetness that conveys a touching, if unstable, honesty. The single "Someday I Will Treat You Good" molds this vulnerability into a radio song, with catchy and affecting results, but it's the shambling, understated songs like "Saturday" and "Sad & Beautiful World" that define the group's down-to-earth melancholy. Despite covering some expansive musical territory, Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot doesn't sound scattered so much as spontaneous, reflecting the happy, sad, noisy, and quiet moments in life.
by Heather Phares