Letter To Self by SPRINTS Album review by Gareth O'Malley for Northern Transmissions


Letter To Self


Dublin band SPRINTS have been a going concern since 2019, with a 2016 festival appearance by Savages providing Karla Chubb and her cohorts with the spark to get together and form a band. Their first year was spent getting going, and it has to be said: they picked a pretty rough year to actually release a debut single, with incendiary offering ‘The Cheek’ arriving in mid-2020, three months into lockdown. In spite of that timing, getting started was the key—they haven’t slowed down since, with a signing to homegrown label Nice Swan and two endlessly replayable EPs (2021’s Manifesto and 2022’s A Modern Job) providing them with enough momentum to springboard to City Slang (El Perro Del Mar) at the start of last year.

Even then, it felt like Chubb and her bandmates—Colm O’Reilly (guitar), Sam McCann (bass) and Jack Callan (drums)—were still building up toward something. A year later, that something is finally here: their keenly anticipated debut album, Letter To Self. In case the title didn’t tip you off, it’s a nakedly personal affair that goes far beyond that tired artistic cliché. Chubb has been through a lot, and her aim through these 11 songs is ‘to close that chapter by putting it on a page’; which is to say that SPRINTS are still two steps ahead. Just listen to the album take of ‘Literary Mind’: last year’s holdover is brought in line with the rest of the record in a way that makes the single version seem tame by comparison. It practically explodes from the speakers—an unashamed love song that’s one of several on the record exploring Chubb’s bisexuality.

The flipside to this is navigated on ‘Cathedral’ with Chubb, as her younger self, apologising for her ‘disposition’ and struggling with internalised homophobia on one of the record’s most honest moments—which says something, considering the candid lyricism throughout—eventually exploding into noisy catharsis as drummer Callan shares a moment in the spotlight, the song swerving into double time as SPRINTS go into overdrive for the rest of the song; sure to go down a treat at their raucous live shows. The four-piece love the element of surprise in general; many songs here abruptly change course or take detours down unexpected paths. ‘A Wreck (A Mess)’ is out of step with the band’s image in sound only, putting a slight pop sheen on their post-punk/garage punk sound while Chubb wrestles with having received an ADHD diagnosis, later getting herself into situations she desperately wants out of. “Why’d I say yes?”, indeed. We’ve all been there.

As well as personal reflections, the album contains commentary on the band’s position in the music industry. If you’re a rising band with a non-man as your public face, you’re going to face sexism and misogynistic takedowns here and there, but Chubb knows how to clap back. Lead single ‘Up and Comer’ tackles the issue of gendered belittlement with enough venom to indicate SPRINTS aren’t a band you want to mess with, while the expectations that come with gender roles are taken to task on ‘Adore Adore Adore’. The band aren’t bothered with pressure to conform; if you’re labelled as a ‘political band’ as they have been, there will be preconceived notions of what that means, but the quartet just want to get on with the business of being themselves. If their existence is seen as political, then that’s just another thing they excel in dealing with.

Whether it’s battling misogyny, anxiety (on the opening one-two punch of ‘Ticking’ and ‘Heavy’), societal expectations, musical expectations or—as on the raw, pained standout ‘Shadow of a Doubt’—personal trauma, SPRINTS have likewise gone through a lot to get here. Their debut album may spend much of its runtime navigating darkness, but its relatable lyricism, towering hooks and unshakeable sense of perseverance help to light the way. Good for up and comers? Good full stop—great, even. SPRINTS have arrived and woe betide anyone who stands in their way.

order Letter To Self by Sprints HERE


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