Thursday, 30 July 2020

Sparks - A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip

Sparks have been releasing albums - 24 of them to date - for nigh on 50 years.
After that amount of time, one would be forgiving and understanding if releases dipped below par, or quality control waned a bit.
Not in the case of Sparks - they don't sound in the slightest bit frustrated with advancing years or bereft of inspiration.
Here's an album every bit as vital to their catalogue as 'Kimono My House' (1974), 'Angst In My Pants' (1982), 'Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins' (1994), or 2017s 'Hippopotamus'.
They hit a seam of quality early on, and have remained consistent to this day.

Opener "All That" lays the foundations nicely - prime baroque-pop with echoes of Abba, The Beatles, and anything else that is simply pleasing to the ear
From there every track demands attention and seems to exist in it's own small world (which at the same time is part of a larger Sparks world).
"Lawnmower" is an almost a repeating mantra about obsession - the constant la-la-la-ing takes root in your brain and stays there.  And there can't be too many songs expressing love for a Lawn Mower, the greatness of a well tended lawn, and a girl from Andover (who drives a Land Rover).
"Pacific Standard Time" casts a retro type 80s dance sound (almost verging Techno?), and the orchestral baroque madness is restored with  "Stravinsky's Only Hit" which re-casts the composer as a slightly bitter washed-up celebrity.  "Onomato Pia" is almost operatic in intent based around a simple pun.
"iPhone" gets almost anthemic and universal in it's desire for the world to "put your fucking iPhone down and listen to me".
There are many moments - perhaps none more so than on "The Existential Threat" - when they sound like they're about to descend into madness, but it is all held together.  And you would expect nothing less.
"Please Don't Fuck Up My World" closes with an almost hymnal eco-anthem to the world they see around them and it's fate.

The album is lushly, thickly produced but never to the detriment of the tunes.  The histrionics of the vocals (which may if that's not your thing, but it is something of a Sparks trademark) are balanced by the sheer warmth, humour and enjoyment of the album.
It is both a product of Sparks and a unique stand-alone artefact.  If you only want to own one Sparks album, you could do a lot worse than this one
(although I'd still make an argument for a score-draw with 'Kimono My House' meaning you'd have to listen to 2 Sparks albums).

"All That"



1 comment:

  1. This is a great record. iPhone is still one of my songs of the year.