Wednesday 16 August 2023

Blur - The Ballad Of Darren

 I've sat on this one a couple of weeks contemplating ... is this a great album by Blur, or is this a great album because it's by Blur and I want it to be great?
No, my ears did not deceive me, and I need no fanboy excuses to declare this a great album.

There are echoes of Bur-past, echoes of Blur-current and future, and some of Damon Albarn's arty-fartiness and meandering melodies and lyrical tracts are kept in check.
There have been recent interviews where each member has expressed the notion that when the four of them come together, something clicks, chemistry chemists, and Blur comes forth.

After the release of their debut album, one could be forgiven for thinking they may not have a bright (or long) future.  Their re-invention of themselves and evoking a Mod-infused view of England changed fortunes (slightly) on 2nd release 'Modern Life Is Rubbish'.  But it was 3rd album 'Parklife' that seared them into the national consciousness.  Continual re-invention followed: 'The Great Escape', 'Blur', '13', 'Think Tank' - all Blur, but all a different version of Blur.
When 'The Magic Whip' arrived in 2015, all signs were Blur were back, but ultimately the album didn't deliver in the long term (certainly for me, repeated listening is limited at best).

So why would I expect anything more from 'The Ballad Of Darren'?
Well, early release 'The Narcissist' suggested there was something special on the way, and now the full package has arrived those early thoughts are not misplaced.

Opening with "The Ballad" which evokes "The Universal" from 'The Great Escape' (maybe not as epic) followed by 'St Charles Square' showing Blur are placing themselves in their post-Britpop years re-inventing themselves for current times.  They know what makes a Blur song, and now have the opportunity to imbue it with autobiography and experience.
"Barbaric" is an achingly melancholic earworm, and you could be forgiven for believing the album has peaked by track 3 - far from it - the peak is ridden from now through to the final track "The Heights".

OK, there is an argument that this run of tracks rarely lifts from the considered, slower, emotive and withdrawn.  But where there may have been riffing, there is now considered arpeggios, where there was once solid rhythm backing there is now considered service to the song and lyrics.  And there be the voice of experience - too many slow Blur songs on the trot could once have paled, now the collection is right for the band (and let us not forget the great moments of their passed are not the "Oi Oi ... Parklife" moments, but the feted "The Universal", "Tender", "No Distance Left To Run" et al

I wanted Blur's return with 'The Magic Whip' to be a monumental moment - it nearly was, and I had to wait a few years for 'The Ballad Of Darren' to be that glorious return moment.

St Charles Square


The Narcissist

Tuesday 8 August 2023


 Everyone has a favourite road (don't they?  just me then).
Motorways do a job, conveying the driver from point A to point B with relative ease (unless you're stuck in traffic jams, roadworks, or "Improvement Schemes" restricted the speed limit to 50mph for most of your journey.  Yes they do the job, but Motorways are quite dull.  The monotony may be broken every 30 miles or so by a Service Station but there ain't much to look at except the back of the car in front.
Before the motorways arrived - the first being the Preston by-pass in 1958, and then followed by a massive increase in miles of road over the next 15 years - the A Road (usually following established routes between major towns and cities, which in turn followed Stagecocah routes or Trade routes) was the road of choice.
And despite the appeal of the Motorway, the A Road offers a more relaxing and picturesque experience.  Service Stations may be further apart (or consist merely of a burger van in a layby), but the journey just feels more involved.

From where I live, there are 2 prime routes to travel west.

  1. M4 & M5
  2. A303
The M4 & M5 route may be quicker, but it's also 10 miles longer (and did I mention the dullness of motorway travel).  Also, you can never trust the traffic on the M5 south (even at the quietest times), and returning home going north is often as bad.
The choice is to take the hypotoneuse of the triangle and travel on the A303, and not purely for the Co-Op Distribution Centre south of Andover, Boscombe Down and Salisbury Plain, the sight of Stonehenge, and Mr Blobbys' former home at Cricket St Thomas.
It's a straight route with the momotony broken by regular roundabouts, and great lengths of dual carriageway which, despite the reputation of traffic jams, frees up traffic flow so it never truly reaches dashboard-banging proportions.
Another great attraction of the A303 was the regular appearances of Little Chef or Happy Eater - both long gone, and now replaced by Starbucks, Costa, or a scantly stocked BP Petrol Station.
The A303 also leads (with slight diversion) to Glastonbury - around June the stories of traffic congestion are no doubt true as (if all those that say they have gone are included) a quarter of the population of the UK decamps to the roadways.
It's possible that Glastonbury was the location in mind when Kula Shaker released "303" on their debut album
(then again, maybe like me they just like the road)

After backpacking around India for a year, Crispian Mills (son of actress Hayley Mills) returned to the UK and formed The Kays in 1993.  Their debut live performance was at that years Glastonbury Festival, but started to fall apart soon after.  Kula Shaker was the re-named, re-configured band formed after the fallout.  Fortuitously for the times, the mixture of psychadelia, Indian mysticism, themes, and instrumentation, bolted to a Britpo-esque attitude and sound proved a winner.  Kula Shaker benefited from rabid record companies signing up anytone who was British and played guitar.
Kula Shaker though stood out as there was a little more about them than some other fag-end of Britpop landfill.
Their debut album 'K' came off the back of 3 successful singles, and no little media exposure and critical plaudits.
The album became the fastest selling debut album in the UK since Elastica a couple of years before, and is actually a pretty good album ("Hey Dude" is one superb song that fitted the times just right).
And when the following year a cover version of "Hush" hit the Top 10 all looked good in the Kula Shaker garden, as success in the US appeared likely.
The second album though ' Peasants, Pigs & Astronauts' was not as well received, sold relatively poorly, and coupled with Crispian Mills comments about swastika imagery, saw Kula Shakers stock fall.  Although he qualified his statements, expressed his aplogies for his naivite, the damage was done and Kula Shaker ceased trading in 1999.

Kula Shaker - 303

Bob Dylan released 'Highway 61 Revisited' in 1965 - the name coming from the north-south highway that passes through his birthplace of Duluth, and winds along Mississippi River down to New Orleans. The route also passes near the the birthplaces and homes of  Muddy Waters, Son House, Elvis Presley and Charley Patton. There is also an intersection with Highway 49 - the crossroads where Robert Johnson (allegedly) sold his soul to the devil in return for increased playing ability (and no little future legend status).
Arguments rage as to which is the best Dylan album, but 'Highway 61 Revisited' contains "Like A Rolling Stone" so I think that should be enough to secure it's place.
In a roundabout homage to the album, John Otway recorded "A413 Revisited" documenting his return home to the Vale Of Aylesbury.

John Otway - A413 Revisited

Perhaps most famous road song is "Route 66" - Billy Bragg tended to agree so he took the tune and re-imagined the lyric travelling east from Docklands to Shoeburyness

Billy Bragg - A13 Trunk Road To The Sea

Tuesday 18 July 2023

Lots Of Trouble, Usually Serious

Lotus was formed in 1952 by Colin Chapman and Colin Dare.  Arguably, the beginnings of Lotus were 4 years earlier when Chapman had built his first car in his garage at home.  The basic ethos of Lotus was to design and build innovative, affordable and competitive sports cars.
The first widely available car from Lotus was the 7 (not as sometimes believed based on an Austin 7, it just happened to be the 7th vehicle designed by Lotus.  This was a stripped out 2 seater track car aimed at motor trialists and privateer racers.
Available pre-built or in kit form, the popularity of the 7 remained until the mid 70s when production ceased and was taken over by Caterham who continued with the pre-built or kit versions to this day - the basic vehicle remains the same despite some obvious safety and reliability upgrades.
Following the success of the 7, Team Lotus was split off to concentrate on racing (primarily with the aim of Formula 1 entry), and Lotus Cars and Lotus Components established as 2 separate companies as Lotus moved into manufacturing road cars.
The first road car proper was the Elite - designed and built by Lotus using whatever parts they could find, and fitted with a Coventry Climax Fire Pump engine.  The cobbled nature of the build led to reliability issues with the Elite.
But it proved popular and so began a succession of road cars each beginning with the letter E - Elite, Elan, Europa, Eclat, Excel, Esprit, Elise, Exige, Evora, Exos, Evira
(OK, by the end they were just making up words)
Reliability issues continued as each model rolled on - Lotus were always looking to innovate - particularly with their own engine and gearbox designs, and often used whatever parts they could source from partners.  So as with the Elite, something was going to give sooner or later.

This innovative streak obviously didn't harm Team Lotus, winning 6 Drivers Championships and 7 Constructors Championships over 15 years.  They were one of the first teams to recognise aerodynamics and experiment with wings on their cars, one of the first to run with tobacco sponsorship, and the first to come up with the concept of ground-effects cars where using a skirt around the car would allow a vaccum of sorts to suck the car to the road and go round corners almost as fast as they could along the straights.
The Lotus 72 car that took Emerson Fittiapldi to the 1972 Championship (bedecked with the Black and Gold JPS livery) continued at the front of the grid for the next 5 years with no major upgrades.
When it was finally updgraded - first to the Lotus 78 which was the first ground-effect car, and then later the 79 which refined and (very probably) perfected the principle.
The 78 and 79 were maybe a little fragile (as all good Loutus's tended to be) but when they stayed working they were unbeatable.
Colin Chapman continued to focus on innovation rather than winning, although performances remained with the front-runners.  However, when he died in late 1982, Lotus began a slow decline towards the back of the grid - their last race was in 1994.
Colin Chapman's passing also opened up the crisis at Lotus Cars and the marque went through a series of owners never quite achieving enough stability to fully re-establish itself.

If you want to get your product noticed, then a blockbuster film is a pretty good placement.
In 1977, just after the launch of the Lotus Esprit, it was the vehicle of choice for James Bond.
But this was no ordinary Esprit - in addition to the guns, cement jet sprayer, and it's ability to out-run and out maneuver the baddies helicopter, this particular Esprit had retractable wheels and a submarine mode.

In the Summer of 1977, I was taken to the Cinema to see The Spy Who Loved Me - we arrived late, but as was the way you could just stay in your seat and re-watch the film played in rotation.  So my first experience of James Bond was in 2 halves.
Maybe because it was my first, I will argue with anyone that The Spy Who Loved Me is the best Bond film, Roger Moore is the best Bond, and the Lotus Esprit is the best Bond car.

The Bond Films have history with their theme songs.  While Monty Normans Bond Theme was the main music for the first film (Dr No) and has subsequently appeared in all Bond films since, the singing of the main theme was given over to a popular voice of the day - tis quite an eclectic list:

  • Shirley Bassey has done 3 themes
  • Matt Monro
  • Tom Jones
  • Nancy Sinatra
  • Wings
  • Lulu *
  • Sheen Easton
  • Rita Coolidge
  • Duran Duran
  • A-Ha
  • Gladys Knight
  • Tina Turner
  • Sheryl Crow
  • Garbage
  • Madonna
  • Jack White and Alicia Keys
  • Adele
  • Sam Smith
  • Billie Eilish

* Lulu provided the theme for The Man With The Golden Gun.  Alice Copper were supposed to be in the running for the theme, but excessive booze and touring saw to it their submission failed to arrive in time for consideration.

For The Spy Who Loved Me, songwriters Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager submitted the first Bond Theme not to share a tile with the film (it was however levered into the lyric towards the end of the first verse).
Carly Simon was invited to perform the song after a throw-away comment from Marvin Hamlisch to Carole Bayer-Sager noting that the lyric seems to be "incredibly vain".  Carly Simon had had a US number 1 with "You're So Vain" so that is very probably where the connection was made.
So I think I have another "Best" to add to the list:
Best Film, Best Bond, Best Car, Best Theme Song

Carly Simon - Nobody Does It Better

And if you're not sure, or need a reminder of the opening sequence of the film, Alan Partridge is here to help ...

Monday 10 July 2023

Jim Bob - Thanks For Reaching Out

Album number 12 for Mr Bob (18 if you include Carter USM), and whilst there may be 30 years distance from his first outing, his ability with a tune, a pun, a lyric, a narrative, and an affecting ballad shows no sign of fading.

Over on that there Facebook, Jim Bob shared the story (a True Story) of sharing the demos with his manager who replied "I bet this is how Tony Defries felt when Bowie sent him Ziggy Stardust.  Just don't muck it up in the studio".
(except it wasn't the word "muck" that was used, but one that sounds very similar)

And I can report that Jim Bob certainly didn't muck it up and delivered 38 minutes of very fine music indeed.
Like a collision of indie, punk, folk, Billy Bragg, Buzzcocks, Slade, and Ian Dury (without the funk).

Opening with the title track where Jim Bob observes "it's an effed up world" but turns in a song of hope.
"Day Of Reckoning" fires up the guitars baiting Putin that there will be a spreadsheet listing his misdemeanours.
"Bernadette (Hasn't Found Anyone Yet)" lists the undesirables she's encountered looking for love - interestingly Bernadette's rejects may well be the blokes that Shona ended up with on his last album
(if you own the last album, you'll get the reference.  If you don't own 'Who Do We Hate Today' get yourself along to bandcamp, Cherry Red, Amazon, or other vendor and correct that oversight).

"This Is End Times", "We Need To Try Harder", and "Billionaire In Space" are a trio of commentaries harking back to the initial observation (it's an effed up world").
"This Is End Times" is ostensibly written from the point of view of the Taliban controls, but could equally apply to the current climate of Cancel Culture.
"We Need To Try Harder" (harking back to "Where's The Back Door Steve" ergo the planet is bit effed) paints a dystopian picture of how it happened ("a single-use tent discarded at a festival by an entitled kid") - there's also a reference to Ian Dury ("In the desserts of Sudan and the gardens of Japan") and later one of Jim Bob's best couplets: "Whatever tune does it for you.  Mozart's Requiem or Black Lace's Agadoo".
The final words of the song set up the next with "Billionaire In Space" - I wonder what the inspiration was for that?
A bit of politician-baiting up next (with a psychobilly soundtrack) - "Sebastian's Gone On A Ride Along" considers politicians habits of donning a hi-viz vest, a stab vest, or some form of uniform and tagging along where perhaps they're not wanted or needed.  The video received a take-down request from Jacob Rees-Mogg (or his Twitter account administrators anyway).  The request was due to the use of his image rather than the lyric (but I do hope he listened to the lyric as well).
"Befriend The Police" calls for tolerance, and is attached to one of those sing-along choruses, which is much in evident on "The Prince Of Wales" (the pub, not a comment on the King) - 2 short verses - including another Jim Bob zinger "Don't cry over spilt milk, you'll only end up with spilt salty milk"and a repeating chorus set-up for a pub singalong.
The publicity suggest this track is "Kooks" for older people, and the repeating: "When your day feels mediocre, we'll drink tequila til it's over" could well support that thought.

David Bowie followed 'Ziggy Stardust' with 'Pin-Ups', and something similar happens here if you get the deluxe version - you'll get 7 perfectly Jim Bob-ised cover versions including "Are Friends Electric?", "Pretty In Pink", "Labelled With Love" and a storming take on Dexy's "Geno"

So, just over halfway through the year and I believe here we have a contender for the Top 2 in the "best of what I have been listening to" list later in the year

Thanks For Reaching Out

Monday 3 July 2023

100 MPH

 On holiday recently in Gibraltar, I noted that all road signs are (much like the majority of Gibraltar) British - using the Transport font developed for use on the first standard road sign collection in 1957, and the speed limits are displayed in Miles Per Hour.  But ... they also drive on the right side of the road and all the cars are left hand drive.  As a result, all these cars will be sourced from the European manufacturers and be fitted with speedometers that show Kilometres Per Hour.  Confusing, but is it's such a small place, it probably does no real harm.

As every driver knows (although many seem to think these numbers are purely advisory), the speed limit in a built up are is 30MPH, the national speed limit on a single carriageway road is 60MPH, and on a dual carriageway and motorway the maximum speed is 70MPH.
The earliest speed limits for powered vehicles date back to 1865 and was set at 2MPH in built up areas and 4MPH anywhere else.  You were also required to have someone carrying a red flag in front of you.
By the late 1870s, the Red Flag requirement had gone and the speed limit raised to a giddy 14MPH.
It jumped again in 1903 to 20MPH, but many cars could easily exceed this limit, and no-one really paid attention anyway.
The 1930 Road Traffic Act removed all speed limits, but by 1934 saw fit to introduce the blanket 30MPH limit in built up areas.  Open roads (ie those not in towns) remained unlimited.  With more open roads, better surfaces, and by 1958 the first motorway, it seemed that the unlimited speed might need taming.
The 70MPH limit on motorways was introduced in mid-1967, following 18 months of deliberation and investigation.  And as most family cars of the 1960s would struggle to top out, or maintain that speed without exploding at some point, 70MPH seemed to be a suitable limit.
There was one slight revision during the Oil Crisis of 1974, but the standard as defined by the Road Traffic Act and Highway Code has remained in force since 1977.

Like many of those 1960s cars, I was thrilled if my first car exceeded 70MPH, and the first time I drove a car at 100MPH was in a friends Ford Capri. Ford speedos were not the most reliably calibrated, so I was probably doing about 80 really.
My current car - a Vauxhall Insignia - has a quoted top speed of 138MPH (ie basically twice the legal limit), and I admit to being heavy footed once or twice and have gone into 3 figures, but 77MPH (yes Officer - no more than 10% above speed limit) is ample.

Vardis were a 3 piece band from Wakefield led by Steve Zodiac (note: it's not his real name, but Stephen Hepworth is not really a Heavy Metal name is it).
Playing the pub and club circuit tightened the band's sound to a collision of high speed, high energy, glam rock boogie heavy metal (sort of Slade meets Motorhead with a bit of Hawkwind and Status Quo in the mix).  With the look, the sound,m and the following they found themselves in the right place at the right time to benefit from the burgeoning New Wave Of British Heavy Metal.
Their first album was a live affair titled '100MPH' and in apt description of the content.  It also bore the legend "Guaranteed No Overdubs" - so it was straight from the mixing desk to the tape.
Underpinned by relentless touring, and some minor success, the second Vardis album 'The World's Insane' came in 1981 followed by 'Quo Vardis' in early 1982.
By the mid-80s, Vardis still weren't getting paid, and Steve Zodiac entered into lengthy legal disputes and the band disbanded.
They may have been at the edges of NWOBHM, but do warrant a mention in most write-ups of the period and have been cirted as one of the bands that occupied a place in Metallica drummers Lars Ulrich's collection - maybe not as mentioned or lauded as Diamond Head, Samson, Tygers Of Pan Tang or others who shone albeit briefly, but no less important to the movement and development.

Vardis - 100MPH
(complete with Vim Fuego-esque Guitar histrionics)

Vardis - Silver Machine

Tuesday 20 June 2023

And Pray That There's Intelligent Life Somewhere Up In Space, Cos There's B*gger All Down Here On Earth

 If I ever needed proof that someone is reading this guff, then a question posed in the comments on an earlier post from Rol at My Top Ten asking "Have you done the Ford Galaxie yet?" proves that at least one soul is taking notice.
And the answer is: No, the Ford Galaxie has not been tributed in these pages.

So ... The Ford Galaxie is a full-sized car that was built in the United States by Ford for model years 1959 through to 1974. The name was used for the top models in Ford's full-size range from 1958 until 1961, in a marketing attempt to appeal to the excitement surrounding the Space Race. In 1958, a concept car was introduced called "la Galaxie" which incorporated the headlights into pods inline with the grille and a reduced front profile.

(I nicked that straight from wikipedia)

One musical point of note is it was the vehicle of choice (in Police livery) for the KLF.
Thing is, the Ford Galaxie was never actually used by the US Police, and Ford Timelord was actually an imported Ford Galaxie that the previous owner (before Jimmy Cauty) had painted up in a tribute to The Blues Brothers Bluesmobile.

Anyway, when I read the question my mind went straight to an alternative spelling ... The Ford Galaxy

Domestic tribulations and responsibilities call for a "sensible" car, maybe an estate.  Equally likely is an MPV.
The first MPV I came across was sometime in the early 80s when a friends family had added a bench seat into the back of an Escort Van.  Not a People Carrier by design, but a Multi Person Vehicle in intent.
I went through the "sensible option" period with a Vauxhall Zafira sat on the driveway.  The Zafire was based on the Astra, and was not without issues, but did ferry myself, Mrs D and 4 kids around the country for a good few years.
It was only the basic 1.6 model - I couldn't convince she who must be obeyed of the slightly mnore exciting choice of the VXR version.  Vauxhall did actually consider entering it in the Touring Car Championship - an unlikely choice, like the Volvo 850 Estate a few years before - but I think they may have dropped the idea when they realised how ustable it could be on fast heavy turning corners
(mine never fell over, although it di feel like it would a couple of times)

The MPV is predominantly a European invention, with just about every major manufacturer using the running gear and frame of a tried and trusted model and placing a spacious body with 6 or 7 seats on top of it.
Arguably it was the Japenese who led the way with the Toyota Previa, Nissan Prairie and the Mitsubishi RVR.  Renault were probably the first European to the market with the Scenic in 1999.
A couple of years later, a joint venture between Ford, Volkswagen and Seat saw the launch of the Galaxy, Sharran and Alhambra (basically the same vehicle with a different badge).
The 3 vehicles shared body parts, mechanicals, and were built in the same factory - it was just the badges fixed on at the end of the production line that were different.
The engines were basically VW plants badged up for the relevant vehicle - the most notable (unlikely?) choice was the deployment of the 2.8 engine from the Golf VR6.
A powerful engine in the Golf, but when shifting something 175% heavier, and did the job well but was not what you would call a "Hot MPV".

When launched, it was the Ford that topped the sales charts, and it was Ford that pushed for updates and developments.
By 2006, the joint-venture parted ways, and the Galaxy became built of the Ford Mondeo running gear.  With just about every manufacturere having an MPV in the range, Ford went down the route of developing the S-Max (which was a compact Compact MPV)  and enlarging the Galaxy.  In terms of size and internal space, the Galaxy became a 21st Century version of the Transit (but with windows)

There was a 5 year gap between the second and third Monty Python films - The Life Of Brian and The Meaning Of Life.
Much had splintered in the Monty Python world in those 5 years.  Their first 2 films had been given direction and purpose by one or two of the Team wrestling the Project through, and on The Life Of Brian all were pulling together in the face of adversity (and George Harrison's mortgage).
Off the back of the last hurrah of Live At The Hollywood Bowl, the team assembled to make their next film.
Whilst ideas weren't short, a narrative or story-arc was absent.  What was decided was to take several of the ideas and weave them together against a backdrop of The Meaning Of Life.  And what was produced was a similar filmic event to 1971s compilation film And Now For Something Completely Different.  Initial reviews were disappointing as was public reception (maybe there was too much expectation of Life Of Brian 2?)
There is much in the film that is quotable, memorable, and has made it into the British language possibly without the user realising it's source ("it's only wa-ffer thin" for example).
Among the sketches were some songs supporting the narrative of the moment.  Eric Idle had obviously taken courage from the acclaim received for Brian's closing song "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life" and penned  a clutch more including a song about the penis in the style of Noel Coward, celebrating the adventure of a career in Accountancy, and this one - a musing on the universe (not 100% scientifically correct, but close enough)

Tuesday 13 June 2023

Sparks - The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte

 When the first single landed, I admit to being a tad concerned about the album.  There was something typically Sparks-ian about the video featuring Cate Blanchett dancing in headphones with Ron and Russell in the background.  But I wasn't enamoured of the song - nice enough, but didn't seem to have a lot of depth or invention.

But, when the album arrived, all fears were quickly dispelled and I found myself thinking "well, they done it again haven't they.  Another superb addition to their 50+ years and 26 album catalogue.

However, as I listen from Track 1, each listen suggests my misgivings for the title track are slowly be displaced.  From there on, what would a Sparks album be without trying to cover as many genre bases as possible?  Which is exactly what the do.  Name a style, and they've probably got it covered - and within each song Ron seems to find a new, undiscovered demo sequence in his synth banks.

The album has 14 tracks, so rather than give a detailed run through of each I'm cherry picking the higher-highlights.
Much of the reviews I've read so far make a point of stating that this album marks a return to Island records, their first label, and the release of their breakthrough album 'Kimono My House' in 1974 (49 years ago).  And the track "Nothing Is As Good As They Say It Is" has the sound and feel of those times.  It may be the most straightforward constructed song here (verse, chorus, solid drums, nifty 70s-esque classic rock guitar solo), but how many other bands would write a song from the perspective of a 22 hour old baby wanting to return to it's mothers belly.

"The Mona Lisa's Packing Leaving Late Tonight" is a big Sparks baroque production with African drums.  And only Sparks can construct a song about the Mona Lisa's enigmatic smile hiding more emotions.  Comes complete with one of Ron's best plinky-plonk (not a great description, but I hope you get what I mean) synth inserts.

"We Go Dancing" is a virtual straight dance track (think "Number One Song In  Heaven" sans Giorgio Moroder) and gives Russell the chance to weave a few long words into the narrative.

"When You Leave" has Russell dueting with himself observing that members of the party are just waiting for him to leave so they can break out the good music and heavy Belgian beers.  As he says, he's staying just to annoy them.

"Take Me For A Ride" sounds like a future entry for my Car series mentioning the Chevy Powerglide.  For this one they go a bit Krautrock backing Russell's near falsetto vocal.

And that's only half the album spoken of - there is so much more to enjoy, as it races towards the closer "Gee That Was Fun", which for all expected Sparks tongue-in-cheek, turning the narrative on it's head sounds like a straight ballad looking back at a life together.
Of course it's possible to read it (mis-read it?)  as a sign-off to the audience.

And yes 49 years of albums from 2 men with a combined age (now) of 151, if this is the last then Gee, that was fun.
I sincerely hope I have mis-read that song, and plenty more madcap melodies, twisted lyrical passages, and entertainment will be forthcoming

And as the publicity run has mentioned it, if you've not seen Edgar Wright's film The Sparks Brothers, then do yourself a favour and search it out on your steaming platform of choice.

"Nothing Is As Good As They Say It Is"

"When You Leave"

"The Mona Lisa's Packing Leaving Late Tonight"