‘Murderopolis’ is an unassuming album, refreshingly free of baggage. Which these days is quite unusual. Often, you find a new release from any band is determined to drag you down into the reclaim for hours, desperately searching for a trolley, staring vacantly at the belt, occasionally mistaking a suitcase for your own.
But not this. The third record from Glasgow based three-piece Sparrow & The Workshop wanders through the channel marked nothing to declare, whistling nonchalantly at the custom officers. It is low-key, in a bunch of ways which aren’t related to the music. It makes for a simple, great album. A simply great album. That reminds you of a bunch of other artists, while sounding sufficiently different to keep your interest piqued.
Particularly the opening. ‘Valley Of Death’ manages to have the creepy stalk of a Nick Cave protagonist skulking through the shadows, but when combined with the larynx of vocalist Jill O’Sullivan also reminds you of Dolly Parton. Ah, being the microscopic cog in a catastrophic plan, what a way to make a living. ‘Darkness’ rocks with the shame shiver-me-timbers sway as ‘Steady As She Goes’ by The Raconteurs; the gorgeous ‘Odessa’ sounds like P.J. Harvey at her least baby drowningly inclined, and the gothic jolt of ‘Shock Shock’ has more than a little of the dusty glamour of early Howling Bells.
O’Sullivan’s voice is key in the goodness that abounds. Rich with the honey-tinged sadness of a country singer but without the thigh-slapping, terrible tunes and worse hats. It gives these songs charisma and style, and makes you want to spend next week going door to door to explain to people that they need to hear them.
It only falters once. ‘Murderopolis’ is a bit odd. It sounds strangely like the theme from Rentaghost, accompanied by people doing actual ghost impressions. Not unpleasant, but it just seems a little out of place, a little bit jokey compared to the rest of the record. Something which is brought into stark context by the following ‘The Faster You Spin’, which with a heavy thud injects a vicious dash of vitriol and bile to proceedings.
In the end though, the sheer tonnage of great tracks wins you over. ‘Murderopolis’ may tread softly, but the stick is carries is of of rare and precious quality. And when the time is right, it isn’t afraid to beat you with it.