Glasgow based trio Sparrow and the Workshop have trod the “indie” path for some years now, regulars on radio sessions, supporting name bands and popping up at festivals but never managing to garner the acclaim accorded to the likes of Frightened Rabbit. It’s fitting perhaps that their third album, Murderopolis is released by Edinburgh’s independent label Song, by Toad, a label that grew from a blog that has consistently been a solid barometer of all that’s good (and cool) in the Scottish independent scene.
Partly because of their name and really only being familiar with some early radio sessions we had kind of filed the band under the “gothic folk inspired” tab but their second album Spitting Daggers featured some tub thumping rocking and on Murderopolis they beef up the sound with Gregor Donaldson’s drums dominating many of the songs while the guitars from Nick Packer are jagged and razor sharp while an array of instruments and effects add mood, often dark and sinister. Peering over this menacing soundtrack Jill O’Sullivan shrieks, cajoles and glowers dominating the proceedings.
It’s not a perfect set with the title song in particular coming across as somewhat confused with the band playing a melody that could have come from Stereolab only to interrupt it with sub Orff vocal interjections. However the rampant mutant blues rock of Valley of Death, The Faster You Spin and Darkness are somewhat exhilarating with O’Sullivan’s voice cold and steely. Water Won’t Fall is a glistening glimmer of Americana as it was produced by Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra back in the days. They’re at their best on the roller coaster Odessa which starts off as a rumbling ballad in the manner of the Cowboy Junkies and gradually builds up to a thundering climax.
You can catch them live at the forthcoming Pale Imitation Festival, curated by Song, by Toad in Edinburgh on Saturday 10th August.