I Used To Be A Sparrow ‘You Are An Empty Artist’ (Paper Wings Records)
Oh dear. I have to admit that upon receiving this CD I was filled with a sense of dread, caused in no small part by the band’s surely-to-god-that’s-a-joke name and album title. These sorts of titles usually suggest bands that have delusions of grandeur and as such the music is inevitably laden with misguided pretension and precious little in the way of talent. I’m pleased to say that isn’t the case here. What is present instead, however, is a prevailing sense of frustration at what ‘You Are An Empty Artist’ could have been.
‘Laura’ is reminiscent of Angels and Airwaves, the auditory equivalent of a dream that falls just short of being engaging. ‘Warpaint On Invisible Children’ is an interesting idea poorly executed, it’s dreadful arrangement destroying a pleasing vocal. ‘Spring Knows Where You Live’ is better, with a solid guitar part and (nearly) audible vocals that ask you to “tell me everything, tell me all at once” but again the song all too quickly falls into ponderous and dull territory. The line “I’m reaching for the sun” ought to be in the middle of the chorus of a life affirming, uplifting rock anthem – probably by Bon Jovi – but here it lacks the necessary conviction to make it sound believable. ‘I’ve Got a Feeling We’re Not In Kansas Anymore’ again features some interesting ideas – trippy, delay drenched vocals and drums follow a backwards intro section – but it falls frustratingly short of success. ‘Cannonball’ suffers from the very same affliction as most of the rest of the album; a strong intro that almost immediately goes horribly wrong. In this case the intro is an insistent, immediate drum pattern that seems to stop as soon as the song kicks in. This particular track also suffers from an awful mix; nothing except the chimey, samey guitars are properly audible.
‘Always The Runner’ is passable – it could be an Oasis b-side, fine if you’re into that sort of thing. ‘Submarine’ swells with potential but doesn’t actually realise it and ‘On/Off’ sounds like a forgettable attempt at emulating The Editors. ‘Blindfolded’ however is good, if fairly basic – it does what nothing else on the album manages to do; it carries the strong start throughout the rest of the song.
There are undoubtedly some great ideas at work here, but in nearly every case they aren’t fully realised or are buried beneath layers of superfluous musical flotsam and jetsam. The poor production in places doesn’t help matters, and this all adds up to one of the most frustrating albums I’ve heard in a long time.
The acronym of the album’s title sums it up best in that it sounds like somebody having their toe stepped on; frustrating experience, to the point of being painful. YAAEA indeed. Towards the end of Richard Curtis’ celluloid cuddle ‘Love Actually’ Bill Nighy’s character urges fictitious listeners to buy his “festering turd of a record”. Whilst I wouldn’t go that far in describing YAAEA, it’s perilously close in places.