The Golden Spike
“I will be honest, sending Sky Larkin to Seattle to work with John Goodmanson on an album was a bit of a shot in the dark,” Wichita co-owner Mark Bowen recently said of the Leeds’ three-piece’s debut. “The results exceeded everyone involved’s expectations. I’ve been doing this a while now and I can honestly say I have never had a band come out of the studio with a record that was so far beyond what might have been hoped for beforehand, even including SFA’s Fuzzy Logic.”
Ok so what would you expect a label boss to say? Hardly “ya know, we sent them to Grungeville, it didn’t work out but still go buy the record, yeah?.” Fair cop. But anyone who’s followed Sky Larkin’s steady progress from early single releases on Dance To The Radio will be similarly struck by the trio’s towering step up to the plate here. It’s how all debut albums should be - a band grasping the opportunity and treating it among the once-in-a-lifetime variety. From track one to twelve, The Golden Spike simply bleeds of three people saying ’fuck it, this is our chance’, prompting one of those rare occasions that propels a band from simply draining every ounce of potential to actually announcing themselves as quite important players indeed.
Yep, it’s that impressive.
Whether it took a change of Yorkshire scenery or the one-time Sleater Kinney, Bikini Kill producer Goodmanson to draw it out is rendered mere window dressing once ’Fossill I’ rips through to the sublime ’Octopus’ in the space of five breathless kick-off tracks. Indeed it was once the album’s opener was released as a single late last year that our ears pricked up. Here was an English band with geographical contemporaries like Johnny Foreigner and Danananakroyd for sure but one bent on fully harnessing the mid 90’s American indie hey-day of Sleater Kinney, The Breeders etc. It’s a mix that makes Sky Larkin sound more refined - not polished mind - just of greater sophistication than the local pack. As someone on some message board somewhere said, 'it’s just proper intelligent guitar pop.’
Yet within this innate perceptiveness frontwomen Katie Harkin stands tallest with a holds-her-own delivery bettered only by a knack for a blinding line. Like when the 90-second ‘Pica’ begins with the cutting “I know he has forgotten so I guess I should remind him that I am eating all this coal ‘cause I am trying to make a diamond” or when in Matador, on a more positive note, she encourages “I am sure that you’re not a doormat, and I am sure you could grow into a matador.” Indeed the whole idea of the album title - “we were there at the driving of the Golden Spike” Harkin sings on ‘Octapus’ referring to the stake erected to mark the American railroad joining Pacific to Atlantic - is brilliantly realised throughout. And, yep, they did it. They went west and came back twice the band. Sky Larkin built their Golden Spike. The next journey should be fascinating.