Beachwood Sparks : London EC1 The Spitz

Alt.Country's a funny old beast

Alt.Country’s a funny old beast. Forget dead-eyed Garth Brooks-style chumps being moulded by the Nashville (Over) Production Machine, the best country music these days is being made by nice West Coast kids like the Beachwood Sparks, who filter their latent hillbilly sensibilities through acid-fried psychedelic noise, fetishizing fringed jackets and Gram Parsons in equal amounts.

And tonight this LA quartet ride waves of sun-dappled choral harmonies and jingle-jangle guitars plundered directly from The Beach Boys, transforming tonight’s sold-out East London show into a countrified acid-pop carnival. ‘Sun Surrounds Me’ and ‘You Take the Gold’ begin life earthbound in a rundown Tennessee shack before detonating their AM radio hooks with Spiritualized-style noise-fests and blasting off in a space-country rocketship powered by scratchy copies of The Byrds’ ‘Sweetheart Of The Rodeo’ and Sonic Youth.

Sweetly punished by these cosmic Americans, the audience shouts out for encores and is treated to a saddle-sore cover of Sade’s jazz-pop staple ‘By Your Side’, transforming it from yuppie pap into the last record in a dusty juke box by the Joshua Tree. It’s all the proof we need: Beachwood Sparks are saving country music for all of us.

Paul Brownell