Today’s Pop Rescue from a fate unknown is the 2008 debut eponymous album Sam Sparro by Australian singer, songwriter and producer, Sam Sparro. Will this album be Gold, or should owning this album be a memory that fades to Black? Read on…
This 13 track CD opens with Too Many Questions, whose first few notes reminds me of the ‘new age system‘ intro to La Toya Jackson’s track Sexual Healing. Suddenly though, a wave of slick strings, synths, and vocals flood your ears and we’re plunged straight in. It’s a nice fairly gentle opening song.
Then it’s on to hit single Black And Gold, which was the breakthrough song for Sam in the UK, giving him a #2 hit. Vocally, Sam’s vocals just seem to effortlessly purr into your ears here as the synths chug along behind him with a skittish beat. It feels like a song that is so familiar (as it felt back then when it was new), but it’s just another one of the original songs here. The vocal harmonies, and strong and soft vocals really makes this a catchy joy to listen to.
Second and final UK single 21st Century Life is next, and this is quite a funky sounding track with oodles of intricate bass. The chorus is quite catchy, once again with plenty of synths and vocal harmonies in play, and this makes this song quite enjoyable, although the UK public disagreed, rewarding it with the heady heights of #44 in the singles chart.
Sick follows this, and whilst the gurgling layers of synths that echo some wonderful 8-bit sounds, are lovely to hear, the vocals here are miserable, downbeat, and sick. No, not the sick ‘sick’ which means ‘good’, but the actual sick. Sam does not sound good here.
That’s followed by Waiting For Time and this gives us a low-register downbeat song, although it does burst a moment that sounds like when Mario gets a power-up in Supermarioland 2 and it goes really fast with 8-bit sounds on the GameBoy before returning to a wafting dreariness.
Next is Recycle It! which is a short 1:17m recycling message that uses beatboxers and throat musicians, reminding me of Björk’s Triumph Of A Heart despite its brief nature.
Lead single Cottonmouth follows that and it makes a lot of putting some water ‘down my throat’ which seems to be one of the main focal points of this song over a nice plodding mid-tempo track with thick bass and brass stabs. It’s a nice enough song, but it doesn’t particularly move much. The track didn’t touch the UK charts.
Hot Mess follows this, with a thick bass, and here Sam sounds a bit like Prince meets Mika with high vocals. The descending piano chords at the start are misleading as the song then bursts and rises up with the chorus. The high vocals pitched against his own lower register vocals works well.
Then it’s Pocket which starts off quite simply with Sam’s vocals as some spacey synths build up behind him. Eventually this breaks with beats, bass, and allows us to evolve into quite a nicely layered song with a catchy chorus. Whilst listening, I feel like there’s an echo from another 00’s track that I can’t quite pinpoint – perhaps Nelly Furtado or Coldplay… it’s there somewhere, but all in all, this is quite a nice catchy song.
Following that is Cut Me Loose. This leads straight in with some thudding beats and bouncing synths. This track really goes for it with the synths resulting in quite a belter of a dance track. As the backing vocalists say right at the end ‘ah, that’s quite good fun’. Indeed, it’s a great song.
Sally follows this, and the tempo is down a little, as Sam sings as if he’s in Boyz II Men to some lady called…. yes, you guessed it… Sally. At times, the song seems to throw quite a few little 1980’s sounds, but Sam’s vocals seem too overpowering for this song.
There appears to be a party happening, which makes sense that there’s Clingwrap here. A party crowd can be heard in the background occasionally, but there’s also so weird voices too which jar a bit. Here, Sam’s lyrics feel stifled, and the song sounds like nothing but an advert for static-loving see-through food coverings. The track feels like a novelty record with a sequence that musically reminds me of Stan’s Suntan track towards the end.
The album closes with Can’t Stop This! and it starts off promising with an upbeat synth sound and guitars before Sam arrives. Here, the song actually feels like it progresses nicely thanks to piano, beats, and layered vocals. A siren joins in part way through, making the track a little messy, as Sam’s vocals slide a little bit too low in the mix.
…then, tucked away at the end of the track, at the 8 minute mark is a piano bar ballad Still Hungry, which is a resentfully sour song about over-spending on a pair of jeans and food. Vocally here, Sam sounds great, and the piano sits alongside his sharp voice perfectly, but once again the lyrics sometimes lean towards almost comedy song.
Over all, this album is a real mixture of loud, exciting, obscure, and boring.
The production on this album is pretty slick, and that’s inevitably thanks to the hard work of Sam alongside Jesse Rogg, Mark Rankin, and Richard X – it works well. Sadly though the album suffers from just a range of styles, and some really stifled lyrics. Singing about recycling is one thing, but to then sing about clingwrap is another, let alone the conflict that must have brought to recycling vs single-use plastics.
Black And Gold, Pocket, Hot Mess, and Cut Me Loose are amongst the highlights here, feeling fully fleshed out and like they’re evolving as they go, with 21st Century Life and Can’t Stop This! being close companions to them. Sadly, a run of weaker tracks from Sick (the most uncomfortable here), through Waiting For Time, Recycle It!, Cottonmouth really makes it a trudge, and the Sally and Clingwrap song just tips this album more into difficult than breezy listening.
More Grey And Bronze than Black And Gold.
- POP RESCUE 2023 ALBUM RATING: 3 / 5
- 2008 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #4
- POP RESCUE COST: 33p from a British Heart Foundation store.