just might be the last place in the U.S.
you’d expect to find an American match for the culturally keen
observations-rock of Britain’s
Pulp – nevertheless, meet singer/songwriter Jud Nelson and Through the Sparks.
The band is no mere doppelganger, though.
Musically, where Different
Class-era Pulp piled on the high-price studio layers and recreated the
claustrophobic feel of council tenancies and on-the-dole kids reliant on sex
and drugs to cope with Britain’s class warfare, Through the Sparks’ baroque
arrangements and elegant melodies – often buffeted by judicious four-piece horn
sections – have a sunny, So-Cal underpinning and were recorded in the band’s
basement. They also emphasize just enough open space to reflect American dreams
of endless frontiers and possibility. But despite suggestions that reinvention
(or the illusion thereof) is just a highway out of town away, Nelson’s young
characters also turn out to be headed nowhere fast. They’re either paralyzed by
“twenty-seventeen” technology (“Buddy Holly’s Gun”) and “microwave dreams”
(“Sad Rock”) or tossing around impotent American can-do sales-patter that only
earns “no no” for the “stuck rats” (“Turn Everything Off”).
These differences in the narrative point of view (and
variations in the instrumental palette) become critical as more similarities
with Pulp emerge. Chief among them is that Nelson sounds uncannily like Jarvis
Cocker, his clever lyrics and pointed enunciation also recalling the Pulp
frontman’s suave way with pin-prick observations and admirable turns-of-phrase.
(Nelson doesn’t rely as much on lothario-snark, but this is still high praise;
most lyricists could stand a lesson or two in quality Brit-wit.) And when Nelson opts for the falsetto on
“Statue Scared” to chronicle dissolute behavior on empty avenues “at dawn when
your kicks are through,” or sings of his aging pals on “Oyster Eyes” that
“you’re not growing old/you’re just falling to pieces in your youth,” the
comparisons get even more apt.
Some may blanch at the similarities, but Worm Moon Rising is more focused and
direct than the band’s 2007 debut, Lazarus
Beach, and if the result is a set of songs that remind you of Pulp at the
height of their powers, only with key American twists? Well, that sounds like
something to be quite proud of.
Everything Off” “Statue Scared” JOHN SCHACHT