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BEACHWOOD SPARKS - "The Tarnished Gold"

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“The Tarnished Gold”

Sub Pop Records - June 26, 2012

In 2000, I received an unassuming advance release from the iconic label, Sub Pop. It was as far from the debut album, “Nevermind,” by Nirvana that had put the Seattle indie on the map as imaginable. A rootsy psychedelic debut from a Southern California band that’s only conceivably shared touchstone with the grunge pioneers who shared the Sub Pop imprint was a fondness for Neil Young, though from vastly different eras of the legendary artist’s career. Whereas Cobain and company embraced the same noisy guitar blasts that landed their pals in Sonic Youth on tour with Young and Crazy Horse, Beachwood Sparks’ first full length harkened back to Young’s “Comes A Time,” and the Topanga Canyon earthiness of his collaborations with Crosby, Stills and Nash. They released a fine second album, “Once We Were Trees,” the following year then added an EP, “Make The Cowboy Robots Cry,” in 2002, both also on Sub Pop. The future seemed bright but after a lengthy tour supporting the Black Crowes, the Sparks' musical hippy campfire seemed to burn out. For ten years not a recorded sound. During a seemingly amicable hiatus guitartist, Christoper Gunst, earned a Master’s degree in psychotherapy with an emphasis on Holistic, Transpersonal, Buddhist, and Somatic Psychological studies; multi-instrumentalist, “Farmer Dave” Scher worked at a surf shop in Venice Beach as well as a self-described, “All-around Vibesman;” bassist, Brent Rademaker continued to play and founded Curation Records and drummer, Aaron Sperske, who replaced the original timekeeper, Jimi Hey, (who focused on energy-healing sessions at a Los Angeles area Reiki center); has played with the likes of Elliot Smith and Father John Misty. In 2008, spurred on by an invitation to perform at “SP20,” the 20th anniversary of their label, they reunited and in 2012, nearly ten years after their last studio effort, “The Tarnished Gold,” their third full-length was released. The opening, “Forget The Song,” picks up seamlessly where the band left off, though the album’s thematic country rock, as exemplified by, “Nature’s Light,” may have country slightly edged out rock this time around. “No Queremos Oro” might be the biggest departure but it still touches on Los Lobos via Calexico, decidedly southwestern sounds. With such similar artists as the Shins and Iron & Wine having joined the Sub Pop catalog since Beachwood Sparks the admission, “No one ever told me time was gonna’ go so fast,” on “You Don’t See Me Crying” seems nostalgically revelatory.

Standouts: “Forget The Song,” "Water From The Well,” “Mollusk”

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