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Sparrow & The Workshop – Spitting Daggers

Sparrow & The Workshop, Spitting Daggers

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

SPARROW & The Workshop can count the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Anton Newcombe, The Pogues and Idlewild among their fans, while their style has drawn comparisons with everyone from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to Jack White, Emmylou Harris and PJ Harvey.

On new album, Spitting Daggers, they show flashes of brilliance. But sadly only flashes…

The band itself comprises Belfast born, Chicago raised Jill O’Sullivan (vocals, guitar and violin), Welshman Nick Packer (guitar and bass) and Scotsman Gregor Donaldson (drums and vocals).

And they’ve evolved into a solid unit who make the most of O’Sullivan’s raw, gutsy vocals and their instrumental dexterity.

Spitting Daggers, produced by Leo Abrahams (of Brian Eno fame), is a lively fusion of folk and dirty rock that throws up some wonderful juxtapositions and some genuinely rousing moments.

But it also underwhelms at certain points, and ends with more of a whimper than a bang that’s somewhat disappointing.

Early on, the signs are massively promising. A folk guitar strum shot through with Packer’s White Stripes-style riff-making ushers in Pact To Stay Cold, before O’Sullivan takes over and belts out a gutsy, edgy opening number.

Spitting Daggers teases with a softly-softly drum loop and some gentle strumming, even reigning in O’Sullivan’s vocal style, before layering in the elements slowly but tantalisingly to conjure a genuine sense of excitement.

And Our Lady of the Potatoes, which was inspired by a historical novel of the same name by Duncan Sprott, offers an art rock gem wrapped around a tale of Louis XV’s 14-year-old Irish mistress. It’s a standout moment that skilfully underlines the ambition and scope of their song-writing.

But just when you think the album is really going to ignite, Faded Glory initially promises more than it delivers and you start to wonder whether Sparrow & The Workshop have peaked too soon.

Current single Snakes in The Grass, with its fantastic bass and teasing melodies, suggests otherwise and offers another easy highlight, while the Beach Boys-style early harmonising of Father Look showcases an unexpectedly mellow alternative to the punky energy of the majority of their tracks.

But thereafter, the album winds down and fails to deliver another telling blow.

Old Habits is good without being great and perhaps too similar to Father Look, while Against The Grain drops some more fine riffs and a Pixes vibe but needs something more to make it really standout, and then final track Soft Sound of Your Voice broods and comes over all ethereal to draw things to a strangely subdued close.

By this point, we’d anticipated a bit more…

Download picks: Pact To Stay Cold, Spitting Daggers, Our Lady of the Potatoes, Snakes in The Grass

Track listing:

  1. Pact To Stay Cold
  2. You Don’t Trust Anyone
  3. Spitting Daggers
  4. Our Lady of the Potatoes
  5. Faded Glory
  6. Snakes in the Grass
  7. Father Look
  8. Old Habits
  9. Against The Grain
  10. Soft Sound of Your Voice

  1. Too many contradictions here. We saw them in Amsterdam on Saturday. Most of what they played is new. They have a great raw sound and she sings in her own unique way. I hope you listened more than once. I feel this review is lazy.

    josh Samuels    May 23    #