Saturday, October 4, 2014

Sixteen Deluxe - Emits Showers of Sparks (1998)

Bouncy alternative rock from the 90s

This Austin, Texas based band made their debut in 1995 with Backfeed Magnetbabe. That album earned the band an indie following and a reputation for noisy, loud, psychedelic pop-punk. On Sixteen Deluxe’s major label debut, however, much of that indie noise was replaced by major label sheen. That’s usually a recipe for a lackluster album and although indie purists will find it hard to believe, there are still certain indie acts who actually improved after making the jump to a major label (the Pixies and Beck for starters).  But Sixteen Deluxe bucked the odds and turned Emits Showers of Sparks into a showcase for their songwriting and musical talents. 

The first single from Emits Showers of Sparks is "Purple", a bouncing, lively track centered on the lyric "I don’t know anything at all." Vocalist/guitarist Carrie Clark sings the line in a detached manner, giving the impression that the lyric is meant to be sarcastic. Clark can also display a real connection with her lyrics, however, as she does on the beautiful "Let it Go." This track can best be described as the great ballad that Chrissie Hynde always wanted to write. "Let it Go" has a bit of a Mazzy Star vibe to it, but Clark seems to have a personal attachment to the song’s lyrics. 

On "Burning Leaves," Clark duets with guitarist Chris Smith. On the tracks which feature both of them singing, Clark and Smith play the roles of X’s Exene Cervenka and John Doe. Smith even sounds a bit like Doe from time to time, especially on the distinctive "No Shock (In Bubble)." Smith’s voice works well on some tracks, like "Wrist Rocket," but not on "Honey" (the album's one true clunker). 

The centerpiece on Emits Showers of Sparks is the epic "Mexico Train." This song finds Sixteen Deluxe in full indie mode, and it’s a real show-stopper. The lyric "With hugs and kisses/ And an occasional lick/ Apologies still on your breath" should give you some indication of the song’s direction. 

At times, Sixteen Deluxe come across like My Bloody Valentine with a serious Pretenders fixation. And while the band does sometimes flirt with guitar noise on this album, the focus remains on the songs’ melodies, rhythms, and strong hooks. Unlike the band’s debut effort that in spite of its raw energy did need a little attention, the songs on Emits Showers of Sparks however will grab you on the first listen. 


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