Typically an album’s title track is a reliable indicator of the entire collection’s instrumental and lyrical themes. Take for example “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd with its lyrical themes of absence, lost friendship, and disillusionment that permeate throughout the other four tracks.
Consider the ever-present guitar textures, tape effects, and layered sounds that embody the song and the entire album; the ambience; the haunting vocals; the timeless mood that the instruments evoke. “Wish You Were Here” is essentially a metonymy of the album sharing its name. The same holds true for Lethargic Caffeine by New Zealand’s The Sparrow Thieves.
The fifth track on the band’s debut album encapsulates the group’s most redeeming qualities and its lesser elements in one tight package. Listeners will immediately notice guitarist Anton Dickens is a huge fan of the aforementioned Pink Floyd, as his ethereal textures and dynamic riffs set a dark, spacy mood for the title track and the album’s ten other numbers. His talents both as lead guitarist and keyboardist lend to the album’s more experimental and complex moments.
As strong as his work is on this song and the others, it’s held back by singer and fellow guitarist Nick McGrath, whose limited vocal range and hackneyed lyrics stymie the impressive groundwork Dickens lays. He too often yokes his lyrical themes to ambitions of the quintessential starving artist. Musically, many songs start with promising atmosphere and a dark, moody guitar riff, but tend to lose steam with McGrath’s more straightforward rock contributions. The group seems to be compromising its progressive and experimental influences by emulating mainstream acts like Modest Mouse and Kings of Leon.
By no means is this album worth dismissing. In fact, it’s thoroughly enjoyable more often than not. There are many tracks in which Dickens takes full control of the reins, most notably on the catchy thumper: “The Right Price,” the dark, reverb laden “Cowboys and Indians,” and the aggressive, cathartic bastard: “We Killed a Man.” Coincidentally, these three songs make up tracks eight, nine, and ten respectively, making the latter half of the album significantly stronger than the former.
The climax of the album is “Cowboys and Indians,” which also marks the four-piece’s most cohesive and inspired effort. McGrath is on top of his game as he belts: “Billy was the cowboy, while I carried the bow, We battled in the sand dunes til’ the sun was sailing low, I crept out from the shadows, I didn’t make a sound, The birds came to a halt, deathly silence all around Billy hit the ground”over Dickens’ squealing guitar riff. The verse parts are largely handled by the impressive rhythm of bassist Sam McGrath and drumming of Jordan Cossill, with Dickens providing reverb and dissonance in the background. All the contributions make for what is clearly the most impressive song on the record. “We Killed a Man” is a fast-paced force that comes in under three minutes, but displays the band at their most aggressive.
And just as the album starts to hit its stride, it’s over; the closer, “Colour” is more indicative of the first half of the album: tightly crafted and brimming with talent, but lacking emotion and consistency. It’s this push and pull between being conventional and being progressive that the band needs to reconcile before writing its next record. The Sparrow Thieves are immensely talented, and hopefully the latter half of their first release will carry into their next. If that happens, there’s little doubt this band will become a force to be reckoned with outside of just New Zealand.
We are dedicated to informing the public about the different types of independent music that is available for your listening pleasure as well as giving the artist a professional critique from a seasoned music geek. We critique a wide variety of niche genres like experimental, IDM, electronic, ambient, shoegaze and much more.
Are you one of our faithful visitors who enjoys our website? Like us on Facebook