Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk
Buckley drowned in a Memphis river in May 1997 on the eve of beginning band rehearsals for his followup to Grace, and this posthumous sophomore album was pieced together from demos completed during the preceding few months. A two disc set, the first disc comprises of official studio demos recorded with Television guitarist Tom Verlaine, and mixed by Grace producer Andy Wallace, while the second disc comes from more informal sessions, often just by Buckley on four track.
It’s better to think of Sketches as a single album with a bonus disc rather than a double album per se. Buckley’s mother, Mary Guibert, who pieced this set together, referring specifically to the lyrics, stresses that “these were works in progress, still in the process of metamorphosis”, but it’s an effective set nonetheless, and it’s not weighed down by boring covers like Grace was. The most arresting track here is ‘Everybody Here Wants You’, which explores an R&B flavoured territory that’s ideally suited to Buckley’s clear falsetto; it’s a shame that he never had the chance to explore this area further. Similarly beautiful are ‘Opened Once’, ‘Morning Theft’ and ‘You & I’, oozing emotion from their minimalist arrangements. ‘New Year’s Prayer’ is almost mantra-like in its repetitive groove, while ‘Vancouver’ successfully marries a delicate melody with a thrashy arrangement. ‘The Sky Is A Landfill’ is bristling and raw, while the cover ‘Yard Of Blonde Girls’ is similarly hard edged.
The second disc can be tough to sit through; I’m not enough of a fanatic to care about the two alternate Verlaine mixes that open the disc, while the poor sound quality makes some of the other tracks difficult (the bass pulse that runs through his cover of Genesis’ ‘Back In N.Y.C.’ is particularly irritating), but some of these songs are definitely worth saving even in this crude form, like the lavicious ‘Your Flesh Is So Nice’ and the unadorned cover of ‘Satisfied Mind’.
Because Buckley’s discography is so small, if you’re a fan Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk is totally essential – the first disc may not be exactly the end result Buckley had in mind, but it’s still fascinating, while the messier bonus disc also has its moments.