The White Fires of Venus – Skin and Light
A Corporate Nightmare Records
Jeff Sparks seems like a nice guy. From the hand-written note he included in the CD he sent us, to his unassuming description on his Myspace page. He is a solo artist who doesn’t feel comfortable producing music under his own name. The band Duplex is one of his ventures and is characterized by catchy rock tunes. The album Skin and Light produced under the name of The White Fires Of Venus lands solidly in the shoegaze genre.
Shoe-gaze is hard to tackle without sounding overly mopey. “Venus,” gets off to a slow start (not that it ever tries to rock your face off), being that the first couple of songs lack any sort of teeth. The spacey guitar, and soft vocals sound pretty generic and fail to grab your attention.
Jeff begins to hit his stride about half-way through the album with “On the Rise.” It begins innocuously with an acoustic guitar and his typically breathy vocals. However, as it continues, “Rise” becomes more layered with the almost imperceptible addition of female vocals, then a powerful electric guitar. By the end both vocals are louder and in harmony, creating intense music.
“Red Ships” is another song that builds throughout while remaining mostly acoustic. It delivers a passion that seems lacking in several of the songs.
Jeff clearly spends a lot of effort on crafting his lyrics and instrumentals. He wrote most of “Venus” at night while trying not to wake his neighbors. This tactic is pretty clear while listening. The album is not without its highlights; just most of it lends itself to sitting in the dark, crying into a glass of wine.