“Awkward, isn’t it? We’ve been shambling on stage for going on 20 years,” said Brett Sparks while fiddling with his guitar, a few stilted moments before striking the first notes of his latest London show with his wife Rennie. Nine albums and two decades since the Albuquerque pair began turning Americana to the dark side, becoming the first couple of alt-country, they remain as bleakly funny as ever.
“We had a cat named Foot-Foot. He’s dead,” was a typical anecdote. They have plenty of animals to replace him, however. On their new album, Wilderness, every song is named after a beast, fish or bird. The tracklisting reads like David Attenborough’s to-do list.
As ever, Rennie’s vivid lyrics offered far more than the one-word song titles. Flies was actually about the fall of General Custer. Glow Worm’s epic drama pictured journey down a hole inside the earth.
With the pace funereal at best, it was a slog at times. Rennie tickled a banjo or ukulele while Brett glowered over his guitar and pushed his glasses up his nose. The addition of David Coulter on musical saw provided a spooky focal point for this odd couple and their swelling menagerie.