Thursday, December 12, 2013

Song #443 of 9999 - Saint Mary by Sparklehorse

Song #443 of 9999

Title: Saint Mary
Artist: Sparklehorse
Year: 1998
Album: Good Morning Spider

It's interesting how one's perspective toward an album can change with the passing of the artist. Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous was reputed as a trouble guy since his 1995 debut Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot and its ensuing tour in support of Radiohead. I really had no idea to what extent until I began researching this post. During the tour, Linkous overdosed in the bathroom of his hotel and collapsed, pinning his legs beneath his body. When he was found 14 hours later, the lack of circulation to his legs had caused considerable damage. When paramedics attempted to straighten his legs, he experienced a heart attack and was clinically dead for several minutes. After surgeries and a three-month stay in the hospital, he was released in a wheelchair, where he would remain for six months. The songs he wrote following this experience would become Good Morning Spider.

As you might expect, it's a dark, depressing album. But sometimes, dark and depressing is what you crave in a musical experience. I'm not depressed but I get sad and it's comforting to listen to a slightly comatose record like Good Morning Spider. Not every song is a downer but the ones that are are perfectly resigned to meet you on that level. "Saint Mary" was written for the nurses who cared for Linkous during his stay at St. Mary's Hospital in London following his accident. Linkous over-enunciates the plosives that frame his lyric about getting back home while the lethargic waltz time mocks his inability to get out of his chair (let alone dance). It's sad but lovely, with musical interludes pitting subdued strings against spare piano. Weighty chromatic passages, both ascending and descending, connect verse to chorus and back again.

I listened to this album a lot in 1998 and it was satisfying to share in Mark Linkous's pain. But in 2010, Linkous put a shotgun against his chest and pulled the trigger. His suicide makes the record harder to enjoy. I don't feel that way about Nirvana records or even Elliott Smith records and I'm not sure why. There seems to be more of a vulnerability to Good Morning Spider perhaps. Or maybe it's just too soon.