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Sparks
Albums

  • Sparks,
  • A Woofer In Tweeters Clothing,
  • Kimono My House,
  • Propaganda,
  • Indiscreet,
  • Big Beat,
  • Number One In Heaven,
  • Terminal Jive,
  • Whomp That Sucker,
  • Angst In My Pants,
  • In Outer Space,
  • Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat,
  • Interior Design,
  • Gratuitous Sax And Senseless Violins,
  • Lil Beethoven,
  • Hello Young Lovers,
  • Exotic Creatures Of The Deep
  • The Seduction Of Ingmar Bergman








  • Adrian's Album Reviews |

    Sparks

    Sparks( 1971 )
    Wonder Girl / Fa La Fa Lee / Roger / High C / Fletcher Honorama / Simple Ballet / Slowboat / Biology 2 / Saccaharin And The War / Big Bands / No More Mr Nice Guys

    Also known as Halfnelson, this debut album sounds way ahead of it's time. It takes in new wave and synth pop music forms a good ten years before those forms were popular, current, and in some cases, even thought of in the first place! The funny, alarmingly impressive thing is, this album could be released today and it would still sound ahead of it's time and wonderfully out of place. Inspired by the freedom of expression such groups as The Mothers Of Invention were bringing to the music scene, Sparks took the freedom and expressed their own unique vision with it. Sparks was/is a musical project for brothers Ron and Russell Mael, originally from Los Angeles. When they eventually conquered the UK singles charts a few years on, the sight of the expressionless, quite insane looking, quite Hitler looking keyboard player Ron Mael, combined with the curly haired, high operatic vocals of his brother Russell, well.... they made quite an impact on the United Kingdoms youth, all told! This debut set saw Ron and Russel and band produced by pop wunderkid Todd Rundgren, and it all worked out for the best in every way imaginable, other than sales of course. Leading off with the pulsating 'Wonder Girl' with it's wonderfully simple pop melodies and very literate, clever lyrics, we move on into such material as the should have been a hit, funny quirky keyboard led sounds of 'Fa La Fa Lee'. 'Fa La Fa Lee' also placed Sparks loosely within the emerging Glam music scene, mostly for the vague resemblance of the vocals of Russell to such Glam artists as Marc Bolan, more than anything else Sparks music contained at the time.

    The great songs continue, on and on. 'Roger' with it's funny, very quirky piano and keyboard sounds, very funny lyrics and vocals - yet still remaining graspable and catchy pop. The accomplished 'High C', the gorgeous and haunting 'Fletcher Honorama'. Actually, 'Fletcher Honorama' deserves more than just a passing mention. It's a weird, strange thing - as if Sparks have been listening to early Doors, a quiet and lovely thing with truly beautiful vocals and a very spooky, dark atmosphere. I'm struggling to find too many bad songs here, to be honest with you. In actual fact, i'm struggling to find a single one. We've got the delightfully odd 'Simple Ballet' which is neither simple, nor a ballet - but it does show off the groups high operatic lead vocals very well. 'Slowboat' is vaguely disappointing I suppose, if only because it's one of the more normal, regular songs here. Well, normal and regular bar the lyrics and the funny, vibrating keyboard/guitar sound that pops up through the middle. That I can't even tell whether it is a keyboard or a guitar says something, I suppose. We've got an album here literally bursting with ideas, too many ideas on occasion, it must be said. Still, the more rock guitar and stomping stop/start rhythm of 'Big Bands' sounds strangely like an early Seventies Eurovision song contest entry. Sparks also did sound very European, even though they hailed from Los Angeles for the earlier part of their career. 'No More Mr Nice Guys' wraps everything up with a catchy and flowing riffing guitar and proper rock drums. It ends the album on a seemingly straight and usual note. Well, the lyrics and vocals are far from usual or ordinary, and happily so.

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    Readers Comments

    Paul Hughes Yozzer5705@blueyonder.com.uk
    I bought this album after seing sparks on a music programme callefd the old grey whistle test and although the vinyll copy is damaged i still play the cd version and it still makes the hair on the back of my neck st and up 32 years later

    JUDE TURPIN turpinjude@btinternet.com
    HI. I REALLY ENJOY YOUR REVIEWS, THEY ARE USUALLY SPOT ON. HOWEVER I THINK YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO `SLOWBOAT` FROM `SPARKS` AGAIN. IT IS ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL. GIVE IT ANOTHER LISTEN. ALL IN ALL, YOU ARE VERY GOOD!

    Robert
    The Halfnelson (later Sparks) album seemed quite out of place in its time, and yet today could easily play on any iPod. The Maels and Mankeys had an interesting thing going, and this review sets out succintly what that interesting thing proved to be. One has to wonder what Sparks would have been without Kimono My House, if they had remained an LA band in the years before punk rather than a Melody Maker fave. To me, the first five Sparks albums, as well as the last one, sum up a lot of great music.

    Alain Belgium, Europe
    I always thing that the two first Sparks's LP's were the best of their very long discographye (Sparks or Hafnelson, you will understand. I suppose that in 71 and 72, Sparks were really a band with different composers and show different kind of faces of their madness, which means so many great musical ideas).I am not sure that we can ear that in 2010 wihout to be ready for :)Sparks is a really special band but their debuts were so amazing; I am not really sure that they are people able to listen to that in the present timeAnyway, I like Sparks from the start to the end, so I really don't care. I bought the "Sparks" and "Woofer..." after "Kimono my house. In 74, I was 12 years old. I can assure you that I was really amazing sound for my yound ears, lolthanx to share you opinions,alain


    top of page A Woofer In Tweeters Clothing( 1972 )
    Girl From Germany / Beaver O'Lindy / Nothing Is Sacred / Here Comes Bob / Moon Over Kentucky / Do Re Mi / Angus Desire / Underground / The Louvre / Batteries Not Included / Whippings And Apologies

    On first listens, 'A Woofer In Tweeters Clothing' is a more arty and difficult listening proposition than was the debut. Repeated listenings do infuse these melodies and daft art experiments into your brain, though. But, don't take my word for it, go out and seek this album and as many Sparks albums as you can, and see for yourself. We open with a stone cold Sparks classic, a stone cold pop classic, full stop. 'Girl From Germany' contains such a funny and clever lyric, such catchy yet not in your face catchy, guitar lines and melodies. Swooning and sweeping vocals and such a damn fine chorus it's a wonder that either a Brian Wilson or a Paul McCartney hadn't thought of it before. Is there a Beatles influence to Sparks music? I don't know, it's not an influence i'd ever considered before, but the pop element to the best Sparks music is so strong, that just perhaps The Beatles are an obvious group to bring up in conversation. Anyways! Songs such as 'The Louvre' obviously display Sparks European infatuations, 'Do Re Mi' displays Sparks way with melodies and catchiness and daftness, all at once. We're also moving towards later, UK chart-topping Sparks in terms of sound, a thumping rhythm section and many guitars are on display, amid the vocals and usual keyboards. 'Beaver O'Lindy' features an accordian and uses it very well too. A quieter song, a ballad and the accordion has it, makes it. 'Nothing Is Sacred' is a truly daft vocal display to truly cherish, and so it goes on. Oh, I love 'Here Comes Bob'. My Dads name is Bob, so it makes me laugh in any case. Okay, so, chances are your fathers name isn't Bob, and that aspect of the song will mean very little to you.... okay, i'm rambling. Ahhhh, doesn't the classical string parts of 'Here Comes Bob' place 'Sgt Peppers' or 'Magical Mystery Tour' in your mind? Those pesky Beatle lads again, they get bloody everywhere. Still, this is very much Sparks, as given away by such lines as "Instant adulation comes to some at birth / Born to queens or corporate entities / But here comes Bob / Someday they'll put me away / I'll think back on active days / Most were worth the minor scars" and so on. Good, yes? Well, yes.

    'Moon Over Kentucky' contains astonishing heavenly echoed wailing beautiful backing vocals, then stomping guitar and drums - the verses are worth hearing every word for before we swing back into those ghostly backing vocals. 'Angus Desire' sounds very Art European classical leaning, 'Underground' is pure and funny and most importantly, brilliant, pop music. The kind that doesn't want to leave your brain, the kind that makes you laugh and smile and cry whilst laughing and smiling as your spine does funny things to your brain and your emotions go off all over the place. A dog barks during the song at certain points. Ah, 'Batteries Not Included' contains beautiful classical sounding Piano and the art/classical/pop/sparks crossover is complete. I was going to give this album an '8', when I first heard it I was going to give it a '7', because initially it just makes so very little, well.... sense. But, sod making sense. As I said, repeated listenings get these tunes into your brain, so much so - you just start to wonder if Sparks weren't the only ones making sense, and that it was everybody else who was insane.

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    hugues o.hugues@wanadoo.fr
    want to add for people who would have a wrong idea of this band that "glam" doesn't mean much. Sparks is simply one of the best pop acts of the times (early 70's). If you like good melodies, you'll like Sparks. I tend to prefer this album, along with the first, to the more famous "Kimono My House". They may be less perfect, but more charming.


    top of page Kimono My House( 1974 )
    This Town Aint Big Enough For The Both Of Us / Amateur Hour / Falling In Love With Myself Again / Here In Heaven / Thank God It's Not Christmas / Hasta Manana Monsieur / Talent Is An Asset / Complaints / In My Family / Equator

    Is it possible to overachieve? Is it possible to, for a certain period in your life, discover a band that overshadows every other band because they sound so very unique to themselves whilst being brilliant at the same time? Nobody else has ever sounded like this. Not quite like this, not quite like Sparks do here, and 'Kimono My House' is an album to live in, let alone declare as being brilliant, which it is. 'Kimono My House' isn't quite consistent from beginning to end, not quite - and it may sound as if i'm being picky in not giving this a perfect score of '10', but come the second half of the album you won't be quite as deliriously thrilled as you were during the first half. That's only human, I suppose. Still, 'This Town Aint Big Enough For The Both Of Us' not only provided us with one of the all time great Top Of The Tops appearances by anybody anywhere but also sounds like little else on earth. It's just so deliriously daft and stupendously brilliant. This one song contains every aspect Sparks had played with so far, all wrapped into the one song with a huge helping of stomping, furiously loud guitars and drums. The guitars are so wonderfully glorious... ah, AH AH AH! Etc.... The lyrics outdo themselves, the vocals are so deliriously fantastic that i'm running out of superlatives to throw at the thing. The song builds up, builds up and builds up - then we reach the instrumental break, such glory - wailing vocals, crunching guitars and gunfire. Second big Sparks hit single 'Amateur Hour' is hardly any worse, either. 'Falling In Love With Myself Again' aint as startling as either of the opening two numbers, but the lyrics are top-notch and the feel of the song very Germanic and so very funny. 'Here In Heaven' is good enough to have followed 'This Town' and 'Amateur Hour' to the top of the charts, but it didn't, shamefully. One of the finest songs and melodies Sparks ever wrote, says I. Who can fail to resist the ridiculously highly sang chorus combined with those flurry of guitars? Who can't fall in love with this?

    Come that second half of the album that I've decided loses the album all of half a point, we still get a flurry of classic songs, so what the hell am I talking about anyway? Well, 'Hasta Manana Monsieur' is wonderful Sparks pop, 'Talent Is An Asset' features foot stomping, hand-claps and sounds like the best Glam inspired pop song you've ever heard in your entire life. So very happy and silly - it'll cure any depression, even one as desperate as mine sometimes is. 'Complaints' contains more great guitars and a funny rhythm and funny vocals and a very sing-a-long chorus that you'll enjoy singing along with whilst making your eyes go funny as you pretend to be Ron Mael in front of your bedroom mirror. Or is that only me? 'Equator' is delirious, 'In My Family' another super strong melody. There are SO MANY melodies here. So many delightful and impressive vocal twists. A brilliant and charming album that deserves to be in many more homes. An album that deserves to be held in as high regard as 'Dark Side Of The Moon', 'Electric Warrior', 'Ziggy Stardust', or practically any other album from the era this was born into.

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    Readers Comments

    Utiliser 1951 user1951@hotmail.com
    I recently heard "This Town Aint Big Enough for the Both of Us" on the radio in the car and then downloaded the lyrics from the Net. It is as amazing now as it was when I first heard it when it was number one in the charts. I also saw Sparks on a BBC2 program recently and I was amazed that they are still around.

    NICKY TANNER NICKYSPIDER@HOTMAIL.COM
    I THOUGHT YOUR REVIEWS ARE WELL WRITTEN AND ENTERTAINING. I WANTED TO AGREE ABOUT KIMONO MY HOUSE. I HAD BECOME JADED AND A BIT FED UP WITH POPULAR MUSIC THEN LAST YEAR I WENT TO SEE THE BARMY MAEL BROTHERS AT THE ROYAL FEST HALL IN LONDON AND I COULD'NT BELIEVE IT. SINCE THEN I HAVE BEEN PATHOLOGICALLY BUYING SPARKS ALBUMS AND WHEN I FIRST HEARD KIMONO IT WAS JAW DROPPINGLY BRILLIANT. ARE THEY UNDERRATED OR WHAT???? I'M JUST A BIT DEPRESSED THAT IT TOOK ME SO LONG TO DISCOVER THEM

    Nathan Harper nator9999@comcast.net
    Aw, come on. You know it deserves a 10. You just mentioned practically every song as a highlight. Just boost it up that little extra half-point!

    kerri o\'neil bikerbabe102@yahoo.com
    think kimono my house is a all time classic album. it has a wonderful mix of different sounds and very quirky too, as here in heaven, and amateur hour and talent is an asset, is a remarkable mix of very different tastes.


    top of page Propaganda 9 ( 1974 )
    Propaganda / At Home, At Work, At Play / Reinforcements / BC / Thanks But No Thanks / Don't Leave Me Alone With Her / Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth / Something For The Girl With Everything / Achoo / Who Don't Like Kids / Bon Voyage

    A more than worthy follow-up to the mighty 'Kimono My House', although loses out by just a smidgeon, because there isn't anything quite as deliriously great as 'This Town Aint Big Enough' on this particular set of recordings. And, oh yeah - this was the second Sparks album of 1974 - an astonishing run of creativity, all things considered. Two classic albums in a single year? They'd struggle to make two GOOD albums in a single decade during future years - so I suppose we can see this era has some kind of golden age for the group? Ignoring perhaps the aforementioned career highlight of 'This Town Aint Big Enough', everything else here is upto the standards of 'Kimono My House' with a healthy sprinkling of highlights throughout. We've a slower kind of song to close and a brief vocal showcase to open - and those are two of the weaker moments, although certainly NOT weak, if you get my drift. Yes? Good! 'Don't Leave Her Alone With Me' contains all the by now cherished Sparks characteristics, high semi-operatic vocals, crunching guitars, clever lyrics and fantastic melodies. Along comes 'Reinforcements', one of those Sparks tunes that makes you wonder whether they were even human, it really is that good - the vocal refrain that ends the song is worth the price of admission alone, the songs title repeated and repeated, "la, la, la" vocals behind "reinforcements" sung in a lower tone. It's just beautiful, a wonderful ending to a perfect song. And the quality is maintained, choice moments being the stomping all the way through 'B.C', the great guitar that highlights the instrumental break during 'Thanks But No Thanks', etc, etc.

    You know, the guitars root this and the previous album to the era from which they came from, but other than that - there would be no knowing where on earth this stuff had come from, and that's good. Timeless music, in the sense that little else has ever quite sounded so consistently full of invention and ideas, both musically and lyrically. Of course, there's every chance the average listener will take one or two listens to this album, or any of the ones before - not like the singers voice, not like the nature of the lyrics - lyrics different to your usual pop lyric, let's face it. A usual pop lyric won't run like this.... "Here's a partridge in a tree / A gardener for the tree / Complete with ornithologist / Careful, careful with that crate / You wouldn't want to dent Sinatra, no" - what SENSE it makes is open to debate, and that bit is but a mere sample anyway.... lots more delights where that comes from, ah yes! By the way, 'Achoo' and 'Something For The Girl With Everything' are both insistent and catchy - the vocals are high, the rhythms are wonderful - everything is delirious pop of the very highest order. <

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    John pot02@parkwood.vic.edu.au
    in your propaganda review you ask what sense the lyrics make. It's a song about bribery so the girl won't talk. She probably has some secret. Listed in the song is all the stuff she'll be getting that stops her from spilling her guts ie 'here's a flavour you aint tried / you shouldn't try to talk your mouth is full'


    top of page Indiscreet 7 ( 1975 )
    Hospitality on Parade / Happy Hunting Ground / Without Using Hands / Get in the Swing / Under the Table With Her / How Are You Getting Home? / Pineapple / Tits / It Ain't 1918 / Lady Is Lingering / In the Future / Looks, Looks, Looks / Miss the Start, Miss the End

    Immediately previous Sparks singles had gone top ten or top twenty in the UK. The two singles from this set, 'In The Swing' and 'Looks Looks Looks' only went top thirty. The previous two albums both reached the UK top ten, this only went top twenty, so we can draw the conclusion that people were tiring of the sound of Sparks, even though this album does well to vary that sound. It was a problem many of the glam-based bands faced, actually - a scene into which Sparks were lumped into, even though really they weren't. Thing is, the publics perception of Sparks has always been 'This Town Aint Big Enough' and the songs they did in that era of Glam. Camp, silly, clever. Too clever for their own good? Sparks were infused with the European culture, one reason for the success of Sparks in the UK, but relative complete lack of success for Sparks in the land of their birth, the USA. There's also a problem for a reviewer like myself, because so little information is available about Sparks, about the details behind the songs, about the characters of Ron and Russell Mael. All we have is the songs, but the songs are usually so rich in ideas, that's more than enough. By the way, I have a theory as to why there was a gradual losing of interest in Sparks in the UK around this time, and it's quite simple. The two singles? 'Get In The Swing' is a near novelty marching band item, although very funny with it. 'Looks Looks Looks' brings Sparks into the 1930's - a true big band SWING type of sound - but what was a publics perception of such songs? Sparks were actually, I presume, trying to break out of the trap the likes of Marc Bolan had fallen into, releasing a series of singles that were all variations on a theme. 'Looks Looks Looks' especially sounds nothing like any of the other famous Sparks singles, nothing at all. But, it's not all that great a song, sadly - and was never ever likely to become a big hit.

    My choices? Either of the opening two songs would have made great Sparks singles! 'Hospitality On Parade' would hardly ( most likely ) have been a big hit either, but it immediately varies the Sparks sound without radically departing from it - just an evolution, much lighter on the guitars, but retaining the melody, lyrical and vocal inventiveness. 'Happy Hunting Ground' meanwhile would have reminded listeners of the famous Sparks sound, although with a higher level of keyboards than previously. Evolution, and a fabulous song that sounds a good deal more commercial than either of the songs that were chosen as singles! I don't want to labour the point, but 'Happy Hunting Ground' is GREAT and 'In The Swing' and 'Look Look Look' are merely quite good. As for the rest of the album, we've got the likes of 'Without Using Hands', which sounds like Noel Coward or something! You wanted a REASON Sparks weren't as successful in America? Sparks were like these two English eccentrics, even though they were actually from LA. The Brits loved them as a result, went heavily into them. How we view the strange, bare, classically tinged likes of 'Under The Table With Her' or the lyrical subject matter of 'Tits' with its repeated mentioning of drink.... brings us back to the reason UK fans liked Sparks. Are you familiar with 'Carry On' films? That's the problem with 'Indiscreet' as a whole. As many inventive ideas as before, but just not as graspable as before, the melodies are moving away from pop towards being very much a 'cult' thing.

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    Jakub jmichalko@o2.pl
    Hey, Adrian. You`ve missed a great bonuses down there: beatlesque cover "I wanna hold your hand" [in mid-70`s style - really good!!] and "England" - fantastic track with huuge melodic & arrang. similarities with..."Leave It Open" K.Bush (1982)!!!!

    Clark
    I'm suprised nobody mentioned "how are you getting home", which in my opinion would've gotten them some attention and would've been a DAMN fine follow-up to any of the singles on propaganda. "In the future" could've been one too. In any case, the two singles they did choose probably were mistakes as far as pleasing the public, who wanted more rock.

    Steven Kingston-upon-Hull
    Adrian, there's a good book about Sparks called Talent is an Asset: the Story of Sparks, by Daryl Easlea; it was published around 2010. Indiscreet is a great album and, along with Kimono and Propaganda, is one of my favorites of the era. Sparks were great in 1974-75 (I was at junior school then - lovely days) and after wasting most of the Eighties and Nineties on mostly electronic dance stuff, they became great again with Lil' Beethoven and everything that followed it. Only Bob Dylan and Alice Cooper have enjoyed such a great late-career renaissance as Ron and Russ.


    top of page Big Beat 6 ( 1976 )
    Big Boy / I Want To Be Like Everybody Else / Nothing To Do / I Bought The Mississippi River / Fill-Er-Up / Everybody's Stupid / Throw Her Away / Confusion / Screwed Up / White Women / I Like Girls / Tearing The Place Apart / Gone With The Wind

    The problem with doing a review page on a band like Sparks, is that details behind the lives of the main band-members and hence possible thoughts and reasons as to why the music took certain directions, is nearly impossible to find. So, we'll read between the lines. Sparks had sold records in England. 'Kimono My House' and 'Propaganda' were both top 10 albums, 'Indiscreet' went top twenty on the back of two minor hits and the reputation of the albums that came before it. 'Big Beat' failed to chart at all and no hit singles were forthcoming. Now, there may have been reasons for this, other than Sparks reasons. Punk was happening ( or about to ) and that glam sound just wasn't fashionable anymore. Even the mighty Marc Bolan of T Rex had found himself selling far less records than before and unsuccessfully searching for a different sound to turn into hit songs. Turning records into hit songs? Was this foremost in Sparks minds?? It may have been. Perhaps not whilst recording this album, but certainly after it - because Island Records let them go when 'Big Beat' failed to make any money for anybody.

    The campness of Sparks in the past appealed to English fans because it was combined with a huge helped of silliness and laugh out loud humour. We could buy it, as long as we assumed they weren't actually serious! 'Big Beat' sounds overly serious and lacks the usual humour to be found in Sparks records. We've also got a confusion. The catchy pop of 'Big Boy' is fine, but it doesn't make you laugh or smile too much. The inventiveness of Sparks melodies has taken a dip. The guitar sound has changed, moving away from thrilling riffs towards slower, more hard rock influenced riffs. Still, the campness in the title or lyrics of 'Big Boy' is apparently counteracted with 'I Like Girls'. But, it sounds.... novelty for the sake of it. It sounds calculated and planned and comes across just that way. Still, 'I Want To Be Like Everybody Else' is a fine Sparks song revolving around clever lyrics and a little repeating guitar riff. 'Fil-Er-Up' goes for the campness vote but loses it's audiences faith when the musical backing is so straight ahead rock. Sparks by numbers, it seems to me. Sparks seemingly trying to provide what they thought the audience wanted. They perhaps were just... thinking about it too much. There are no new Sparks sounds here, no new Sparks classics and precious little on this 'Big Beat' album would find its way onto many fans 'best-of' lists. There's a drop in energy combined with a drop in startlingly silly and fun melodies - to be replaced with something that sounds like somebody trying to be Sparks, rather than actually being Sparks.

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    Martin Truksa martin_truksa@hotmail.com
    Big Beat is a unique Sparks album and for this reason it should be treasured. It is the only serious, straight ‘rock’ album that Ron and Russell have recorded, and it gives an insight into how Sparks would have sounded had they gone down the ‘traditional rock band’ route. Notice how Sparks albums from the 1980’s sound generic and interchangeable whereas the albums from the 1970’s are individually distinguishable. You can check out my Sparks reviews at www.geocities.com/mtruksa

    Clark
    It's not that serious, listen to "Nothing to do" or "Everybody's stupid". There's some really funny, clever lines in those, all wrapped up and possibly hidden by the "normal" sound...which was really either an attempt or a mockery of trying to fit in with an american audience opposed to a UK audience.


    top of page Number One In Heaven( 1979 )
    Tryouts for the Human Race / Academy Award Performance / La Dolce Vita / Beat the Clock / My Other Voice / The Number One Song in Heaven

    Giorgio Moroder hooks up with the Mael brothers, and the results produce the most un-sparks sounding album they'd done so far, but re-captures some of their initial, shall I say, enthusiasm. Top disco producer Giorgio Moroder co-writes a bunch of the songs, a true collaboration. Those high, daft, silly and delightful Sparks vocals are all present and correct, but any semblance of glam has gone. Art-pop of the highest order returns, most happily so. The opening song twists the usual disco rhythms and these disco rhythms sound almost, underground. Alternative disco - the song builds up and up instrumentally, a great groove comes in, the vocals arrive - repetition arrives - Sparks, in their misunderstanding, completely understand and get disco. They twist and change disco - and produce something absolutely magnificent and stellar, the best damn disco music you've ever heard in your entire life, disco with clever, intelligent lyrics you want to listen to. 'Academy Award Performance' is so daft, deliriously silly and happy and bouncy that I defy anyone to not like it, at least an awful lot. Those sparks vocals ride above such a silly musical backing, that it's almost impossible that anybody thought this could be something people would ever take seriously - Sparks were well and truly, BACK. Ah, all the songs here are five, six minutes long each. Each one is daft, silly and taking the piss and genius and the best disco music that ever exists. Disco music for people that don't like disco, but privately, they do. Donna Summer?? They can ride along and swoon and dance - but Sparks adds intelligence. The combination is so bizarre, the music so quirky, that 'Number One In Heaven' manages to be one of the very best Sparks albums.

    Ah, AH AH!!!!!!!! 'Beat The Clock' is truly fabulous, the songs title repeated and repeated over the most fabulous groove, add in Sparks lyrics, Sparks vocals - an expert disco groove courtesy of Mr Moroder - stunning production - and Sparks were suddenly back in the singles charts. Hooray! 'My Other Voice' is the nearest this album comes to filler, but it's still good. The closing 'Number One Song In Heaven' opens all suitably, with holy sounding vocals - it's seven and a half minutes long. Truly silly, truly great - and Sparks were vital again. Sparks were back. Enjoy.

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    top of page Terminal Jive( 1979 )
    When I'm With You / Just Because You Love Me / Rock 'N Roll People in a Disco World / When I'm With You / Young Girls / Noisy Boys / Stereo / The Greatest Show on Earth

    A second Giorgio Moroder production for those Sparks boys, although this time out with a little less Moroder in the overall sound, less disco emphasis, although it is still there. I could have done without the instrumental reprise of 'When I'm With You' which comes across as total filler and padding. I could have done without the slightly thin sound, a track such as the clumsily titled 'Rock N Roll People In A Disco World' lacks a little, well, ooomph! Mostly however, for the main of 'Terminal Jive', Sparks do ok. They do the 80's pretty well considering it wasn't quite the 80's when this album was recorded! So yeah, we've got a new wave feel, very noticeable not just in 'Rock N Roll People' but also in the strongest song here, the vocal version of 'When I'm With You'. Cool, slick and very well put together pop, pure new wave with the synths and gentle melodies - good melodies. A professional piece of writing, in a way. I hate to say anything Sparks do is professional however, it doesn't seem an appropriate word to describe them, usually. Professional has connotations, eg, 'dull'. Still, 'When I'm With You' overcomes such concerns by just being so damn catchy. A question. Who did that song 'So Macho' in the 80's? Sinita or somebody? Sorry, my memory fails me sometimes, getting old now, getting old. My point was?? Oh yeah, 'Just Because You Love Me', complete with reliance on disco sounds, although not the supercharged disco of 'Number One In Heaven' - sounds like it could have been released at any time during a ten year time-span that ended in 1989, or so. That's impressive, I suppose. A testament not only to the writing skills of the Mael brothers, but also to the production nous of a Mr Moroder.

    The bouncy 'Noisy Boys' follows the new wave pop of 'Young Girls'. I do like this 'Young Girls' song, actually. Mostly for the vocal performance, high vocals, almost swooning vocals, proper singing! Okay, that may be going too far, but certainly this is a good vocal performance. 'Stereo' borders on bland, but it does have something. Vocals and melodies, vocals and melodies. 'The Greatest Show On Earth'? Not quite, but 'Terminal Jive' is ok, a decent album - nothing terribly thrilling, certainly not as exciting as earlier Sparks favourites, but a firm, solid piece of enjoyable work, all the same.

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    Marlowe idiotkicker@hotmail.com
    Young Girls, far and away the best track on "Jive"...even if it does sound like "YMCA" for the pederast crowd... Your enthusiasm is uplifting. Truly.


    top of page Whomp That Sucker 6 ( 1981 )
    Tips for Teens / Funny Face/ Where's My Girl / Upstairs / I Married a Martian / The Willys / Don't Shoot Me / Suzie Safety / That's Not Nastassia / Wacky Women

    Good songs, as usual. As usual, the production and actual performance of the songs is hit or miss, but we want to kiss them anyway, for the opening song. It's prime Sparks, 80s production or not. "TIPS FOR TEENS!!!!!!!!" and the energy and daftness central to Sparks is there. It's there, and it is glorious. A wonderful Sparks moment. Unfortunately, the album isn't quite so good elsewhere. Yes, the opening song really is the best song here, out of the whole bunch. The 80's production, by the way. It's not as bad, or obvious, as an Eric Clapton 80's album, or anything, but it is still there. Let's take 'Funny Face', seeing as this album is uninteresting enough to progress through song by song. Ever wonder why reviewers do that? They get lazy! They don't give a toss, nothing grabs them! Well, you try listening to two or three thousand albums and find something different and interesting to say about every single one. Go on, try! Back to 'Funny Face' by Sparks ( do you like the padding in this review? it's cool! ), the guitar player, I want to punch in the face. Is he the guitar player for The Darkness? He shows such lack of creative talent or touch, he may as well be. But, that's another story altogether. Ah, entertainingly silly vocals for 'Where's My Girl'. An electro funk about 'Upstairs', but nothing here is brilliant, just merely average.

    Well, that's the first half. Come the second half, the will to live is lost, because the songs just aren't THAT good enough, to overcome the production. 'The Willys' needed a great guitar solo and a glam beat and the glitter. Instead of false eighties production and a half hearted feel all round. It's a quite funny song, if totally stupid and dense and self-parody. And, the rest of the album? I really don't give a flying toss. Nice piano to open 'Suzie Safety', but I come up with better melodies than this in my sleep, and I have crap fingers, and can't play any instruments!

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    Danny danny@leftoffthedial.com
    Wow, I'm a bit shocked that you don't like Funny Face. I've never heard Kimono in my House and I'm from the US where nobody knows Sparks, AT ALL. But I stumbled into some of their stuff, and Funny Face is remarkable. I can't think of any song with a more ridiculous premise than a model happy to disfigure his perfect face...and what band could ever pull that off. This is a great example of what Sparks can do that nobody else ever will. I definitely need to check out more of their stuff, but don't underestimate the power of the funny face!

    Flashfoldman evil_bill99@yahoo.com
    I discovered Sparks back in 1981 on an RCA compilation LP titled "Blitz".Featuring a mass of new wave buzz and a little song called "Tips for Teens".Sparks stood out to me because they didn't belong on this LP at all.Other than Robert Ellis Oral,Sparks takes the cake.I Recently found Propoganda(Queen-like but on silly pills)at a yard sale for .25 cents,it was obviously never played or barely,typical of America...we don't eat it unless it's driven down our throats...few U.S. citizens feed on Sparks,high in energy, yet a non-typical diet.Ron & Russ are obviously a low fat fare.Thanks for the great reviews on Sparks!!!!Flash


    top of page Angst In My Pants( 1982 )
    Angst in My Pants / I Predict / Sextown U.S.A. / Sherlock Holmes / Nicotina/ Mickey Mouse / Moustache / Instant Weight Loss / Tarzan and Jane / The Decline and Fall of Me / Eaten By the Monster of Love

    Sparks, during their most dire creative era, sell more records in their native US than they ever did during their creative peak. Just a fact. It happens quite a lot. Echo And The Bunnymen, nothing to do with Sparks whatsoever, but they do a shit cover of a Doors song, tour the US, make the worst album by far that they had until that point ( 1987 ) and any fool could tell they'd past their peak, but those happy US audiences lapped it up, because they arrived too late. The appeal of Sparks during this era, to US audiences, and it's not their fault, just, the country is large. For a band with no promotion, like Sparks, or Echo And The Bunnymen, or The Stone Roses - word or mouth alone? It takes time. The band in question has often spurt their load, before America even finds out they even exist. Anyway, i'm rambling again, because this is yet another deeply uninteresting Sparks album. Bar the opening song, only a third as good as any song from 'Kimono My House', but still by a country mile the best song here, this album is painful and has little to offer. The songs themselves, in usual Sparks fashion, have 'SOMETHING'. They all have ideas, and daft vocals, and usual Sparks traits, but the music? Forget it!

    Sparks got trapped by the 80's. Europe, Sparks largest audience, forgot them, as Sparks had descended into self parody and bad copies of contemporary production. The US suddenly, ten years too late, discovered that Sparks existed. That's it.

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    Mike Crump mike_crump@tinyworld.co.uk
    Your reviews are so good and entertaining to read! I agree with you that 'Sucker' and 'Angst' are among Sparks' least good albums, but they were made twenty years ago! It would be great if you could tackle the later albums, many of which recapture all the things you used to like. 'Gratuitous Sax and Senseless Violins' deserves a review, and what about the new one 'Lil Beethoven'? Whether you actually like the album or not, there's no denying that no other band could be going for over 30 years and produce something so unlike anything else you have ever heard! Cheers, Mike

    Brian brianfizzy@msn.com
    This is a brilliant record. It's what got me into Sparks in the first place (I love 70's Sparks too!) But come on... "I Predict","Sextown USA" "Angst In My Pants" are all classic 80's songs. They were the sound track to my teenage years in sunny L.A.


    top of page In Outer Space 7 ( 1983 )
    Cool Places / Popularity / Prayin For A Party / All You Ever Think About Is Sex / Please, Baby, Please / Rockin Girls / I Wish I Looked A Little Better / Lucky Me, Lucky You / A Fun Bunch Of Guys From Outer Space / Dance Godammit

    Sparks collaborate with Go-Go Jane Wiedlin on a couple of songs for this set. The first collaboration, 'Cool Places', saw Sparks break into the US top 50 for the first ( and last ) ever time. 'Lucky Me, Lucky You' was the second Wiedlin assisted number on an album that sees Sparks sound rejuvenated, to an extent. Nothing here matches their finest early seventies moments, but equally, nothing here makes you want to scream out in frustration. Returning to 'Cool Places', released under the name "Sparks & Jane Wieldlin', that in itself no doubt assisting sales - we get ourselves our customary strong Sparks album opener. Sleek and intelligent 80s pop to go. Of course, where 'In Outer Space' differs from the albums immediately preceding it, is that here we have an album that continues on strongly. Well, more or less. Not everything works and little here is ambitious Sparks pop art, but no matter. A soft vocal amid bouncy electro new wave backing is the order of the day for 'Popularity'. The vocal and lyric are delicious, actually and the song, very very catchy. Other highlights include the funny 'All You Ever Think About Is Sex' and the very Sparks sounding song title that is 'A Fun Bunch Of Guys From Outer Space'. Both songs continue with the sleek, electro new wave pop sound that the best moments here display.

    On the down side, 'Prayin For A Party' is instantly forgettable, 'Please Baby Please' a little on the light side, a little too easy on the ear. Elsewhere we get the glory that is 'Rockin Girls', a song made by the vocals and lyrics. The music is as light as 80s pop of the era ever got, actually. Having said that, the melody is strong. The best 80s music was fairly simple underneath the then groundbreaking technology and 'no guitars, no drums' production. In truth, Sparks were ideally suited to adapting to the early to mid 80s sound. Lots and lots of synth duos popped up out of the woodwork, had a couple of hits, then disappeared again. Of course, Sparks had a history to save themselves from such 'a fate'. They never did have a big hit with this 'In Outer Space' album, although yes, 'Cool Places' reached the giddy heights of number 49 in the US. The album broke the Billboard Hot 100, first Sparks album to do so. Sparks fans, a curious bunch, must have been happy. They had a few new fans too, always the mark of a decent album effort.

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    Michael steelmanmjw@yahoo.com
    Sparks are a great memory of my High School days in southern California. I saw them live at Disneyland. What great memories, Cool places, Popularity and I wished I looked a little better.. Songs I related to!


    top of page Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat 5 ( 1984 )
    Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat / Love Scenes / Pretending To Be Drunk / Progress / With All My Might / Sparks In The Dark Pt. 1 / Everybody Move / A Song That Sings Itself / Sisters / Kiss Me Quick / Sparks In The Dark Pt. 2

    Hmmm, that little rejuvenation didn't quite last, did it? Sparks attempt to carry on having hits in their homeland by giving what they thought the people wanted. Well, in part, the people apparently did want light, generic new wave 80s electro pop, from Sparks. What Sparks missed doing for this set, which they managed quite well for the 'In Outer Space' record, was to write interesting melodies. The vocal melodies let the side down in particular. The music is a little too generic, could really be absolutely anybody. 'In Outer Space' managed to meld this 80s sound to Sparks melodies and distinctive characteristics. They weren't throwing their strangeness in a listeners face. Which is perhaps why that album both sold and received a measure of praise from long-term fans. Having said all of this, we do of course have a few moments on 'Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat' worthy of the Sparks name. The title track is one, easily carrying on the finer moments from 'In Outer Space'. 'Pretending To Be Drunk' and 'A Song That Sings Itself' are both halfway there, the lyrical side at least reminding you of one of the reasons you like Sparks in the first place. Unfortunately, 'Song That Sings Itself' sounds like something from Eurovision Song, musically. Very generic and unsubstantial backing. Production values that sound far too cheap and cheesily cheerful. Production values and a sound that merely ends up making a listener want to vomit, but nevermind!

    Um, things don't really get better as this album progresses. 'Progress' is one big UGH, 'With All My Might' a rather dreary 80s new wave pop ballad. 'Everybody Move' goes back to Eurovision land, very poor, very poor. Ah, at least 'Sisters' joins the title song in being good. So, Sparks completists do indeed have some reason to buy this set, after all.

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    top of page Interior Design 4 ( 1988 )
    So Important / Just Got Back From Heaven / Lots Of Reasons / You Got A Hold Of My Heart / Love-O-Rama / The Toughest Girl In Town / Let's Make Love / Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before / A Walk Down Memory Lane / Madonna /

    Competent, professional and nearly totally anonymous. Sparks had come to this? Still, long-term fan Morrissey had obviously introduced himself by now, hence the song 'Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before'. Sadly, it's not a cover of The Smiths classic, rather an eighties drenched sad excuse for a song. Well, the song itself is fine, the lyrics are fine. The sound of the track and the actual melodies and music could literally be anybody, however. It was 1988, by the way. Why were Sparks peddling music that sounded like it was 1983? Just myself wondering, really. Really, I don't know what to say about this album at all. As I said, it's well produced, professional. The only hint that this is Sparks does arrive with the usual good lyrics, and the vocals. Even those aren't as good as usual Sparks. 'Love-O-Rama' sounds like an Erasure b-side, or something. Did they want to sell records? Well, of course they did. They were only human, after all.

    Lots of reasons, ah, 'Lots Of Reasons'! The opening to the song sounds like Depeche Mode circa 1981. That Sparks had fallen so far behind the times is just sad, quite frankly. Don't get me wrong, I can listen to this album - but it's really not something to be impressed by, even mildly. The booming 80s drums and effects and fake guitar and bass of the opening 'So Important' says it all, really. I give in. Still, 'Madonna' hints at future directions, a sleek slice of clever lyrics and stripped down music that benefits from the brothers touch.

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    Readers Comments

    david green Dbgbear777@aol.com
    Sorry,But this is the 1st time where I am asking myself,"are you out of your mind?"you got a hold of my Heart" is a Heartbreakingly Beautiful song.Not even a mention?

    mark horse_06@yahoo.com
    You don't get it. Because you only listened to it once (right?). A top ten crap hit/album is usually one the masses like right away. For a few weeks, then they realize it's lost it's appeal. And it's not at all timeless. The Toughest Girl In Town is a great song. It's no Kimono...so what? It's a good album.


    top of page Gratuitous Sax And Senseless Violins( 1994 )
    Gratuitos Sax / When Do I Get To Sing My Way / When I Kiss You I Hear Charlie Parker Playing / Frankly Scarlett, I Don't Give A Damn / I Thought I Told You To Wait In The Car / Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil / Now That I Own The BBC / Tsui Hark / The Ghost Of Liberace / Let's Go Surfing / Senseless Violins

    A return to form, hooray! They'd taken a good time off, long-term fans may have been forgiven for thinking they were dead, or something. Still, the opening 'Gratuitos Sax' echos the opening to the 'Propaganda' album, enough for those same fans to allow themselves to raise their hopes. The truly remarkable thing is that two singles from this album charted in the UK top 40 singles charts. Sparks didn't have a single hit song during the entire 80s, remember. In fact, second song 'When Do I Get To Sing My Way' charted twice, both times within the top 40. So, that's good! Sparks seem to have taken on the influence of the likes of The Pet Shop Boys for this album. The music does resemble the Pet Shop Boys efforts, circa the early 90s. That's not either a good thing or a bad thing, as far as I'm concerned, not being the hugest Pet Shop Boys fan, but it's ok. The real improvement is in the songs themselves, both melodies and lyrics. The vocals and lyrics largely providing the melodies, by the way. Back to 'When Do I Get To Sing My Way', the music is fairly anonymous early nineties dance/pop fair. The lyrics and vocals are something else, however. That's what draws you in. It's much the same for the remainder of the album, the other hit song, 'When I Hear You' entices through the vocals and lyrics. Musically, it's a Pet Shop Boys b-side. Still, inspiration has to come from somewhere, doesn't it??

    'I Thought I Told You To Wait In The Car' is my favourite song here. It's so silly, so ridiculous - the lyrics, vocals - totally hilarious! It hints at a future Sparks, one realised to near perfection. But, that's another story, and shall be told another time.

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    top of page Lil Beethoven( 2002 )
    The Rhythm Thief / How Do I Get To Carnegie Hall? / What Are All The Bands So Angry About? / I Married Myself / Ride Em Cowboy / My Baby's Taking Me Home / Your Call's Very Important To Us. Please Hold. / Ugly Guys With Beautiful Girls / Suburban Homeboy

    I was going to 'only' give this record a '9', but upon deciding that for any band, let alone a band around as long as Sparks, not only to produce practically the best material of their career - but to also challenge nearly every current and accepted popular music form - that they deserved that extra half point. Sparks create a character, 'Lil Beethoven'. Classical and opera. Etc, etc. I tried not to read up about this album, didn't read interviews where the Mael brothers explain the concept of this album - because the album itself is really all you need to know. The opening song is so masterful and challenging and turning the entire music world on its head - by itself - that little explanation or quotes from interviews are required. 'The Rhythm Thief'. A dance track wherby violins replace the dance beats. The lyrics ape the repetition of both dance music and popular music in general. The track repeats lyrical themes, musical themes. It goes round in circles, like all 'good' popular music tunes, yet builds and builds to a finale. "Where did the groove go?" they sing. "Lights out ibiza" they sing. About bloody time somebody took a stand against this evil!! About time somebody said, no, it's not all groovy and cool, that scene. Sparks create a song that is so clever, so beautiful and so listenable and hypnotic, that this song alone almost earns this album classic status. There is more, of course. Oh, yes. 'How Do I Get To Carnegie Hall?' "Practise man, practise". Piano motif's, repetition. Things are continuing. Classy lyrics, classy music. Sparks usual deadly operatic vocals - but this is surely the album they were born to make?

    'What Are All These Bands So Angry About' is a rock song that features no guitars whatsoever. Clever, I say. Instead, they use the vocals to carry an aggressive assault. The lyrics make a point about nu-metal, or whatever. The music evolves into pretty piano patterns above which the vocals shout angrily! And? Well, this song is followed by one of Sparks best ever songs, perhaps their BEST ever song. 'I Married Myself', ha-ha! Well, musically it is beautiful. The lyrics again repeat, the music again goes round in circles, as all pop music does. But, this music has been painted using strings, classical piano. Subversion. The lyrics are brilliant, fantastic. The melodies slightly sad - the images this song creates!! Every lonely person will actually stop feeling lonely and laugh out loud. This is actual genius we're talking here. Still, 'Lil Beethoven', this album that challenges everything in a way that's actually hard to explain, just continues on its own merry path. Songs built around single hooks or phrases, then executed in semi-operatic or classical style. A true mesh of styles and cultures. Pop music has been around for, what, forty years?? It took Sparks to do something truly new, the only truly startlingly new thing that 21st century music has produced? Well, yes.

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    Mike Crump mike_crump@tinyworld.co.uk
    That's a great review! I hope lots of people read it and get inspired to buy the album. Sparks have created something which has minimal commercial potential during these awful times when everything has to be formulaic and categorisable: but this is an album that people will talk about in years to come, when the pap that clutters up the charts now is just a distant and painful memory. Keep up the good work!

    John fossilise_apostle@yahoo.com.au
    Um, 'what are all these bands so angry about' does have guitars...listen carefully to the 'Hey everybody' spoken word parts! PS. Could you add my sparks site at www.geocities.com/fossilsparks/ to the related sites bit down the bottom? thanks!

    Mikey mbishop27@hotmail.com
    The reviews here are excellent, thank you. I love Sparks and am on a mission to get my friends listening to them as well, with some success. Also Sparks fans may like Queens second album, darker than Sparks but similar musically


    top of page Hello Young Lovers 9 ( 2006 )
    Dick Around / Perfume / Very Next Fight / Baby Baby Can I Invade Your Country / Rock Rock Rock / Metaphor / Waterproof / Here Kitty / There's No Such Thing As Aliens / As I Sit To Play The Organ At The Notre Dame Cathedral

    Sparks always used to be a mildly amusing curiosity. They enjoyed a run of UK hit singles and albums in the 70s which were largely ignored in their homeland. In the 80s, a string of albums poorly received in the UK that actually managed to sell a little in the US. Still, thanks to 'Lil Beethoven', Sparks are currently enjoying a critical renaissaince both sides of the Atlantic. 'Hello Young Lovers', i'm very pleased to report, is another absolutely wonderful work of melody, invention, intelligence and originality. The kind of record good enough to restore your faith in an entire flagging music industry. The classical overtones of 'Lil Beethoven' are slightly less prominent here on 'Hello Young Lovers' whilst the lyrics are slightly more playful. So, in true Sparks traddition, the first song is delightfully titled 'Dick Around'. Even more delightful than this already delightful song title is the opportunity it allows the Mael brothers lyrically. A torrent of words, one torrent after the other arrives during the operatic opening sequence. Faster and faster the vocals and lyrics come, suspense and tension is builded. Oh, the suspense. Oh the tension! Then, in amongst the speedy operatic vocals and the stabbing, sweeping strings arrives a dirty great heavy metal riff that Metallica in their prime would have been proud of. The song ends, you run out of breath because you've just been smiling so much. That's 'Dickk Around', the very first song from 'Hello Young Lovers'. Sounds good, doesn't it? Or how about 'Waterproof', a classic slice of Sparks that if you had to pick just one typically representive song of the group across all their years and styles, would do a pretty good job all by itself of telling you exactly what Sparks were all about. Quite an acheivement, if you ask me.

    I'd rate the semi-conceptual 'Lil Beethoven' just a whisker above 'Hello Young Lovers', by the way. Seeing as both reach such a high standard, that's not to say 'Hello Young Lovers' is anything but excellent though. Other highlights here include the wonderful 'Perfume', a very bouncy, superbly witty and crafted pop-tune. Of course, I have to mention 'Baby Baby Can I Invade Your Country'. It rhymes Beetle with Ringo, in a way that only the best pop lyricists can, and I make no bones about describing Sparks as pop music. Pop music shouldn't just mean Madonna or 50 Cent. Why can't pop music actually be artful? Anyway, yes. All spanish/mexican sounding strings come in, bouncy like. The words invade and change are used, 'Can I invade' or 'Can I change', alternated. And I like that little lyrical trick. I do. Ah, those strings? Very spaghetti western sounding, quite appropriate, I suppose. Ah, what else? Well, lots of things. There's always little tricks and turns to check out on the best Sparks albums. Mark me down for their next effort too, I can't wait. If only we had a dozen new bands around today as good as Sparks currently are? Worth a thought, isn't it?

    Alain Belgium, Europe
    I was so happy that "they" return with a so amazing recordIf you imagine that they being in... 1970 and they still do very good music, wowwhat else to say :)al.

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    top of page Exotic Creatures Of The Deep( 2008 )
    Intro / Good Morning / Strange Animal / I Can't Believe That You Would Fall For All The Crap In This Song / Let The Monkey Drive / Intro Reprise / I've Never Been High / (She Got Me) Pregnant / Lighten Up, Morrissey / This Is The Renaissance / The Director Never Yelled "Cut" / Photoshop / Likeable

    After 37 years and some 21 albums, Sparks still have the ability to surprise. Well, they remain in the semi-orchestral waters they pioneered for themselves with 'Lil Beethoven', but that's good. That's great actually, it's a sound that really suits them. They are also joined by real guitars and drums on a couple of songs and 'The Director Never Yelled Cut' even manages to fit in some Brian Wilson styled harmony vocals. We could possibly argue for the album to be slightly shorter - at fifty minutes and with such intense intelligence on display throughout, the brain starts to pound by the end of the record. They could cut off the last two tracks actually, even though 'Photoshop' and 'Likeable' are both more than, er, 'likeable'. Release them as b-sides, or something. Anyway, Sparks prove to themselves and anybody with open ears and minds that they are still able to raise the bar for other bands to merely follow, glum mouthed in their wake. 'I Can't Believe That You Would Fall For All The Crap In This Song' beats the kind of disco-rock crossover bands such as Klaxons or Scissor Sisters present and inflict upon us. Also sounding utterly modern yet still great is 'Good Morning', a single that's even managed to get on the radio here in the UK. If the singles charts still meant something to anyone over the age of twenty-one, 'Good Morning' might have even managed to be a hit.

    'Lighten Up Morrissey' is a lyrical highlight, the character in the song complaining that he can't get any action because he just doesn't live upto Morrissey in his girlfriend's eyes. A semi-hard ( ha! ) glam rock sound becomes the musical theme for this tune, quite appropriately, perhaps? Strong songs continue throughout, the humorous and daft lyrics of 'She Got Me Pregnant' married to the kind of swirling orchestral sound that works so well for 21st Century Sparks. Album highlight 'Strange Animal' seems to sit inside this new Sparks style before switching back to the Seventies glam-thing then lurch forwards again. You wanted a church-organ, progressive rock type interlude as well? Well, you've got it, then. Whilst not quite matching either of the previous two LPs overall, 'Exotic Creatures' still manages to be that rare thing, a fun intelligent album that also stretches boundaries. Sparks are remarkable, it's not said anywhere near enough times, is it?

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    Lee London
    hi ive been reading your excellent reviews of the sparks albums.ive recently only just got into sparks and ive bought there last four albums plus music you can dance to and a woofer in tweeters clothing, the last 2 im still waiting to listen to.im really into sparks after listening to lil beethoven and exotic creatures.i must say that are outstanding albums and there latest one i just cant stop playing.i played it 5 times in one day.but my favourite songs on the albums are ive never been high,this is the remaissance,likeable and good morning, although every song is a killer, all single material to my ears.sparks are so underrated they deserve to be heard by everyone and be a major commercial success but i suppose the everyday person just will not get them, such a shame.im gonna get all there albums eventually im such a big fan now, altho only a recent one and im 40 years old now.im due to receive hello young lovers soon so id love to give a verdict on that too.but so far the! re latest album for me is the best it is so addictive.where should i go for my next album maybe kimono,propaganda or indiscreet i think.

    Marc UK
    Lee - You absolutely have to go for Propaganda next. It's the greatest cohesive piece of "pop" music ever. Even better than Devo's debut.


    top of page The Seduction Of Ingmar Bergman 8 ( 2009 )
    1956 Cannes Film Festival / I Am Ingmar Bergman / Limo Driver (Welcome to Hollywood) / Here He Is Now / Mr Bergman, How Are You? / He'll Come Around / En Route To The Beverly Hills Hotel / Hollywood Welcoming Committee / I've Got to Contact Sweden / The Studio Commissary / I Must Not Be Hasty / Quiet on the Set / Why Do You Take That Tone With Me? / Pleasant Hotel Staff / Hollywood Tour Bus / Autograph Hounds / Bergman Ponders Escape / We've Got to Turn Him 'Round / Escape (Part 1) / Escape (Part 2) / Oh My God / Garbo Sings / Almost a Hollywood Ending / He's Home

    Warning, there are no regular Sparks songs here that haven't been wound into the narrative of this musical play of theirs. Commissioned by Swedish National Public Radio to devise an original radio musical Ron and Russell Mael have given us The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman, a sixty-four minute suite touching on the cultural divides between Europe and the US, something Sparks are very well placed to comment on. classical piano, Opera, vaudeville, jazz, pop, rock and a full orchestra trace the imaginary transportation of Ingmar Bergman to Hollywood. Talking about individual tracks seems a bit silly as this is a concept designed to be watched, listened to, imagined in your head - all in one sitting. With a vocal cast of 13 plus Sparks recent touring band, this does come to life. It comes to life, suffice to say, in a way only Sparks could quite manage. Essentially using the same sweeping styles of their recent studio LPs proper such as 'Exotic Creatures' or 'Lil Beethoven', Sparks mix falsetto with rock guitar with a repeating orchestral/piano refrains. At times, they sound like Queen, you know those massed vocals? Well, makes sense to me, both Queen and Sparks came out of glam-rock after all.

    Random Observations

    One of the characters sounds like Kermit The Frog.
    In 200 years time, Sparks rather than The Beatles, will be revered as the greatest ever popular musical act
    'The Seduction Of Ingmar Bergman' is too demanding for a modern lifestyle
    'The Seduction Of Ingmar Bergman' includes a church organ approximately 21 minutes in.
    Shortly after this, whilst Ingmar is trying to contact Sweden, the American receptionist/operator asks "Sweden, how do you spell that?"
    'We've Got To Turn Him Round' and associated melodies are weirdly lovely
    Almost a big opera dance number to close.
    Was it all merely a dream?

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    top of page this page last updated 23/08/15


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