Review of Sparrow and the Workshop's album Into The Wild released through Distiller Records.
Very few bands today truly warrant the term 'quirky' but Sparrow and the Workshop might just be one of them. A three-piece formed in Glasgow a couple of years ago, but with its members hailing from Scotland, Wales and America, they have performed their brand of 'beat folk surf rock, punk' in a variety of locations including a shipping container and the highest pub in England.
Elements of this strange kind of universal appeal show themselves in their new short player Into The Wild, released with Distiller Records. The lilting opener 'You've Got It All' does well at lulling the listener into a false sense of relaxation, the wonderfully harmonised vocals of Jill O'Sullivan and Gregor Donaldson giving the illusion of an easy ride; even the occasional intonation problems are endearing. The drums and bass, however, have different ideas, pounding their way into the music, transforming the song into something more hard-hitting and emotional, setting a trend for the rest of the record.
The 'Sparrow and the Workshop sound' is something that's quite hard to pin down. It seems to take as much from the traditions of country and folk as it does from contemporary rock and psychedelia, the latter clearly demonstrated on the Jefferson Airplane-influenced march rhythms of the title track.
At times the band become more sonically spacious, such as in the 'Crossing Hearts', allowing you to enjoy the nuances of each instrument, in particular the wonderfully melodic bass lines, and the rhythmic chameleon qualities of the drums. You can even hear hints of post-rock in the instrumental storms of the album centre-piece 'Blame It On Me', the guitar-calls into the abyss bringing to mind Explosions In The Sky and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. When you have a chance to stop indulging in the beauty of the vocal harmonies, the group hit the spot lyrically too; the repeated cry 'Why can't you be as miserable as me?' in the bitter number 'Jealous Of Your Heart' is particularly poignant.
Closing with the wistful 'Swam Like Sharks', Into The Wild manages to leave a lasting impression. The music proves to be as moving and as relevant as it is enjoyable to sit back in a comfy chair to. Through their quirkiness, Sparrow and the Workshop reach the admirable achievement of emotionally connecting with their audience without throwing their music at them. This is a band that deserves a bigger following; if this record is anything to go by then that will certainly happen, it may just take some time.