Sparrowhawks, The Compass, Chester

Thursday 31 January 2013, 16:24

Adam Walton Adam Walton

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It feels a swizz, and maybe somewhat lazy, to review the same band twice in a week - but I'm in the first throes of love here.

You'll have to forgive me. Just be thankful you weren't anywhere within hearing distance the month after I got back from seeing U2 in 1987. Yes, I wish I could pretend it was Sonic Youth or The Jesus And Mary Chain or The Smiths or Mister Mister, but it wasn't. It'd be disingenuous to pretend otherwise.

Pity poor Simon Penketh who I forced to sit on the wall outside the Cross Foxes in Nannerch while I bored him to a husk about the start of Where The Streets Have No Name, how the guitars filled the NEC in Birmingham like fanged butterflies... fanged butterflies... flies... flies.

"I want my guitar to sound like that... that... that..."

I think I had a digital delay on my dreams for months afterwards.

The Edge used an Yamaha SPX90 and a Memory Man Electro Harmonix. I wish I could remember anything with that degree of ease and fervour now.

Back to the pub wall. I bored poor Simon about how I wasn't asked for ID when I bought a lager. I sang the whole of "40" for him, doing all the crowd bits too. I described in vivid, made-up detail how the guitar that Bono threw into the crowd during Exit nearly hit my head.

"I could see his sweat on it. It nearly bloody hit me here," I'd point at my planet-sized head and Simon was, no doubt, as unsurprised as a man could be to hear that something casually flung, even in an aircraft hangar like the NEC, might have hit it.

Like I say, now I'm all grown-up-myself and terribly pseudy, I wish it had been My Bloody Valentine or Big Black.

But it wasn't. It was U2.

On the infrequent occasions that I'm tipsy, I'll occasionally stick The Joshua Tree on as I'm drifting off to sleep. And I'll like it.

There.

I said it.

And while we're on the subject of U2, Achtung Bono is their worst album. The political equivalent of that album would be Norman Tebbit making a donation to the National Union of Miners, in a Billy Bragg t-shirt. All worn ironically, of course.

I hate irony.

Stab it to death, in a jumper made by a knitting machine, and wine-coloured chinos.

Sparrowhawks aren't going to be all that grateful for the cultural references I've bandied about so far. I've noticed some bands are loathe to link to my reviews. I think it's because my reviews are more badly disguised psychological eruptions than actual reviews. And being quoted is the real joy of this role. It makes me feel like I'm mates with artists, almost on a par.

Sparrowhawks sound nothing like U2.

While 'reviewing' their EP earlier in the week, I noticed they were playing in a venue not too far from my house. That EP has managed to dislodge Wolf's Law (and The Joshua Tree - ahem) from my music system, for the time being. The EP's unselfconscious wonderment, its seamless appropriation of sunshine jazzy folk pop, makes it unique and resonate with a rare integrity.

So, here I am. Sat in The Compass wondering where there are so many fat Paul Weller impersonators gaggling around, lairy and like Loaded and Oasis still ruled the roost. It's a throwback convention... ageing faux mods whose musical vocabulary extends from Shine 9 all the way to Shine 10. They're swaggering like TFI Friday, albeit a little more stiffly than hitherto.

Why are they here? Where's my Anthrax? (I mean the heavy metal band, but feel free to misinterpret).

They're here because Mark Morriss - from The Bluetones - is the headline act. The Bluetones wrote rather whimsical songs with lots of jangly chords in them. They had an emotional vulnerability in their finest moments that wasn't commonplace at the time... unless you were listening to Gene, in which case it came by the lorryload.

Quite what Mark has done to deserve an audience so (mostly) neanderthal is beyond me. I swear the man with the feathercut at the bar is talking about the "bird's tits" on stage. No wonder Morrissey emigrated.

"The bird" on stage is Sophie Ballamy of Sparrowhawks. The man at the bar won't be getting his hands on her mammary glands. She's a different species. She glows with music. Her fingers make the complex chords look as simple as a raised middle finger.

And although the band are playing a stripped down set, with an acoustic-drum-box-thing that is making my mate Mike wince like someone is injecting an ear with a tongue in it bursts of concentrated salty lemon juice, they sound proper great.

I listed the people they remind me of in the EP review. The fact that those comparisons: Bacharach, Pentangle, Stereolab, Jethro Tull endure the braying yahoos who are only "mad fer" re-heated memories, these days, is testament to their strength. They may as well have been showing bullocks Eisenstein.

Sparrowhawks are something special. Talon-ted, you could say. It's early days for them - but they're already in flight. Watch them soar.

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