There is new and exciting music coming out into the world every day; too much to keep up with, honestly. And because of that fact, many great artists tend to get overlooked and forgotten very easily. Anyone remember a little group from southern California called Beachwood Sparks?
I first heard of the greatness that is Beachwood Sparks from my guitar player, Andy Cox, about a year and a half ago when I was looking for new music to put on my iPod. It was crammed in the middle of a huge stack of cd’s he gave me to burn, so I just burned them all without really listening to much of any of them and went on with my life. And honestly, after that I was on a Harry Potter audiobook cycle for about a year straight while at work and didn’t bother with much music for a while… Don’t you judge me or I’ll Avada Kedavra you!
About six months after I first got their record, I was driving around Denton listening to music when Beachwood’s cover of Sade’s “By Your Side” came on the shuffle. “Hey now. This is an awesome cover of badass song,” I said to myself. But then the thought immediately left my head… being bombarded by a barrage of hippie bicyclists parading down Hickory Street or checking out some cute scenester girl sounds about right. This sort of situation happened a few times for me with Beachwood Sparks. I would hear a song now and again and think it was great and then instantly forget to see whom I was listening to, and they would fade back into the darkness of my iPod once more.
It wasn’t until about a month ago that I actually remembered and consciously listened to Beachwood Sparks’ entire second record called “Once We Were Trees”, released in late 2001. I was blown away. How come I had never heard this until now?! One reason for that would be that when this record came out, I had just graduated high-school and was listening to Dashboard Confessional and pulling “Hey, Misters!” for Bud Ice 40’s at the time… Really don’t judge me now!
The smooth, reverberating melodies of an electric 12-string and the tinny twang of a pedal steel mixed with the calming, lullaby-like tonality of guitarist Christopher Gunst’s voice reminded me of a present day version of The Byrds’ later stages. The messages portrayed through their lyrics are some of the most positive and uplifting words I have ever heard. Lines from some songs saying things like “Don’t give in to the things that take away from you” and “Though we may lose our way deep in the pines, stay so free” comfort and encourage you to love and live and be happy in this messed up world.
Beachwood Sparks alone has strictly been on my iPod for the past month. I think the album play count is up to 116 at the moment, and my friends no longer want to ride with me in my car. I just can’t stop, and it never gets old.
There is one problem, though. What the hell happened to Beachwood Sparks? Shortly after the release of “Once We Were Trees” back in late 2001, they almost completely dropped off the music radar. After reuniting for a short period in 2002 to record the “Make The Cowboy Robots Cry EP”, Beachwood then went into hiatus, though never officially splitting. I even looked them up on Wikipedia, and it was very confusing and jumbled and I cried like I haven’t since I got lost at Disney World when I was four and Goofy ate my Mickey Mouse hat... The bastard!
The only activity Beachwood has really had since 2002 was Sub Pop’s 20th Anniversary Festival and a few shows around the time of the festival in and around Big Sur, CA in late July of 2008. They then went right back into oblivion again, but are apparently, and hopefully, “working” on a follow-up to “Make The Cowboy Robots Cry.”
It would be a shame for such a great band like Beachwood Sparks to completely be forgotten. Keeping up with new, emerging artists is always a good practice, but at the same time, we can’t forget the simple pioneers that have helped pave the road for much of the great music we have today. And f*** the Alamo! Remember Beachwood Sparks!
MP3: Beachwood Sparks - Silver Morning After
-Cory Coleman [c]