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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Beachwood Sparks: The Tarnished Gold


1) Forget The Song; 2) Sparks Fly Again; 3) Mollusk; 4) Tarnished Gold; 5) Water From The Well; 6) Talk About Lonesome; 7) Leave That Light On; 8) Nature's Light; 9) No Queremos Oro; 10) Earl Jean; 11) Alone Together; 12) The Orange Grass Special; 13) Goodbye.

With the kind of fame that Beachwood Sparks had been able to earn (each of their albums has amassed from 10 to 20 customer reviews on Amazon, to give a rough picture), one might get a little puzzled about why this band felt the need to get back together under the same old name, ten years after they'd all dissipated to test out various alternate projects. A «Pink Floyd reunion» or a «Fleetwood Mac reunion» or an «Eagles reunion» — that kind of makes sense, whatever the ac­tual results might be, but a «Beachwood Sparks reunion» just sounds weird.

However, just one listen to The Tarnished Gold, the band's third album, is enough to set things straight. This is not a reunion because the band never really felt apart. What they did was take their own advice and go back to a tree-like state — that way, no matter how long the breaks be­tween albums, time stands absolutely still, and the next one picks up where the last one left off even if the tectonic plates themselves had relocated in the meantime. There is only one problem: the more time you spend standing still, the deeper your roots sink into the ground, and thus, ten years of phantom existence resulted in the band's third album becoming their dreamiest — nay, their most lethargic — creation thus far.

With the exception of maybe just one or two mid-tempo soft country-rockers, and a highly artifi­cial and unfunny excursion into Latin territory (ʽNo Queremos Oroʼ), all of these songs are slow, atmospheric, brooding segments of psycho-folk, and all of them could be roughly described as spiritual variations on the theme of ʽConfusion Is Nothing Newʼ. Except that there is neither any confusion here, nor anything new — the Sparks still place their trust in tender, caressing mixes of acoustic guitars, echoey slide leads, retro-sounding keyboard tapestries in the background, and hushed, relaxating vocal harmonies. No individual part of this sound is ever great by itself, and when they are all merged together, The Tarnished Gold is, at best, a pleasing, instantaneously forgettable lullaby. Listen to it every evening, seven days in a row, and by the end of the test period you will probably not be able to remember a single song — but you just might get a week of heal­thy, eco-friendly sleep.

Where this album fails, as far as I see it, is in its goal to generate transcendental magic — the very goal to which everything else, like lively tempos and catchy melodies, is sacrificed without mercy. In ten years, Beachwood Sparks have not managed to pick up any new tricks: they think that their three cherished muses — Echo, Repetition, and Tenderness — will somehow do the job for them. But, like all responsible muses, all these three can offer is a helping hand — they cannot teach the band to learn new chords or implement original instrumentation. Hence, another dis­appointed thumbs down. Put it this way: good taste may be a virtue, but who needs good taste if there's nothing on the horizon to be tasted?

Check "The Tarnished Gold" (CD) on Amazon
Check "The Tarnished Gold" (MP3) on Amazon


  1. I swear, one and only time when I actually fell asleep on a plane was when I played this album. This was in 2008, back when it was released. It wasn't an early morning flight, mind you.

    1. Christ, why do I distinctly remember listening to it in 2008? 2012 of course, but I guess there must be something to it...