Album of the Week: Sparrow and the Workshop - Murderopolis
Murderopolis? Talk about scratching the mood into your arm before the needle’s even hit the record. If Sparrow’s previous works could be confused with a ‘nice girl plays plugged in alt folk music’ Murderopolis well and truly buries that particular body.
Now on Edinburgh’s Song, by Toad Records, Jill O’Sullivan, Gregor Donaldson and Nick Packer have always had a killer instinct, but here, they’re getting their heads down and getting on with the business of rocking out. At times Murderopolis is brutally heavy both in sound and in tone, but keeps the level of pop hooks high, and in O’Sullivan’s mid-Atlantic drawl can’t help but keep cells of country folk running through their veins.
Sometimes though, blood needs to be spilled. Darkness, for example is utterly phenomenal. The icy guitars and O’Sullivan’s stark vocals are aided by backing vocals that almost sound like Gregorian chanting. And then the song explodes with a spitting, vitriolic chorus. If thumping album teaser Shock Shock didn’t have you sitting up and taking notice, this definitely will.
Odessa’s slower, subtler build is every bit its equal, pent up rage eventually let out in controlled bursts as the song reaches its climax. The Faster You Spin is surely a future live favourite. You’d fear for the air in any venue as this song striking up means it’s about to have the crap punched out of it.
The playfully freewheeling chorus of Avalanche of Lust shows that power isn’t everything. It’s a pure pop song, or at least it would be if it weren’t for the obtuse stop/start arrangement. Power is back though, with an incessant, pounding kick drum on Flower Bombs that hits you over and over like a baseball bat to the head.
Sparrow and the Workshop are still clearly on an update tangent. A decent amount of radio interest and at some high festival billing shows that a new label may just have been they fillip the needed to push on a bit. They’ve certainly made a record that merits a wider audience – Murderopolis should make a killing and Sparrow and the Worskhop ought to get off Scot free.
We nabbed a word with Jill O’Sullivan too!
How does Murderopolis differ from your previous records?
I think the main difference was that this album was mostly written in a single chunk of time, and there were no tours breaking up our concentration. I mean, there was work, but that was in Glasgow so we could weave practices into our work schedules. We’ve also been playing together for long enough to give one another space. When I listen to our earlier stuff I am always amazed by how crowded it all was, we were all playing at the same time all the time. We’ve chilled out a lot in that respect. We give one another more space and are probably more relaxed in general, which is why there is a playful side to some of the tracks. We didn’t have an obligation to make this album, it was purely for the enjoyment of playing together.
And how was the recording process?
Recording the album was a lot of fun, we did a couple tracks with Iain Cook to begin with (he’s an old friend of Gregor’s – as in, they used to play with Lego together) but then CHVRCHES took off and he had to focus on that. Fortunately, the usually incredibly busy Paul Savage happened to have some time in his schedule and he had been there in Chem19 for the Cook tracks so he agreed to do the album with us. It was really serendipity because we’d worked on Crystals Fall with Paul and had developed a good relationship with him and wanted to work with him again anyway. The recording process was great because he knows our band well and we work well together, he also makes the drums sound killer and the drums are pretty up in your face on this album, so it was good to have his expertise in that regard.
How did you end up working with Song, by Toad?
We have a long history with Matthew, when we started playing, before we even had demos ready, Matthew invited us to come do a session for his blog. We had no idea who he was but we liked that he swore a lot so we went over to Edinburgh and played a few songs in his house. I don’t think he had any idea how to record a live session at the time, but we didn’t have any experience there either so we were well matched in that respect. He turned out to be a lovely chap (Really? – Ed) and we stayed in touch and did some gigs with Meursault and became friends with them all. All the while, we watched him grow from a blog into a label and he is a really hard-working fucker. When he offered to put out our album it was a no-brainer really. We’re pretty happy we decided to do it, too.
What’s coming up on the live front?
We have two shows planned that are pretty much album launches, May 8th in Glasgow at Mono and May 9th in Edinburgh at the Caves. We’ve never done an album launch before so why not do two this time and be total gluttons? We’ve also scheduled a London gig for June 24th at the Lexington and are hoping to do a couple more gigs around the south of England around that time. We’re also going to be James Yorkston’s band on June 29th at the West End Festival. We’ve never done anything like this before (as a band) so it’ll be a bit of an experiment but it should be exciting. We’re playing Insider Festival on June 22nd and Stockton Weekender on July 28th and hope to announce a few more festivals soon.
Murderopolis is out on May 27 on Song, by Toad Records.