SPARKS – EXOTIC CREATURES OF THE DEEP
By Madeline Bocaro ©
The evolution of the pop song has reached its zenith on the latest brilliant opus from the depths of the Mael psyche! Sparks have once again completely reconstructed the idea of the popular song so that it can survive and flourish in a more harsh and demanding musical climate. That time has not yet come, but Sparks are planning way ahead, as usual!
Some of the highly developed songs are disguised as radio-friendly tunes, many of which are potential hits! The rest of the album lies somewhere between Indiscreeton steroids and Propagandaon Prozac. The swelling chorus of multiple Russells is abundant, vivacious violins and pianistic perfection abound, and there are musical nods to many masters of countless genres. Non-drug references, a one-night stand, rock star rivalry, a monkey motorist, a pseudo love song…here we go!
A beautiful, lilting fleeting minute of Russell’s layered choral perfection states the theme of the album right up front: the dangerous line between love and like. In this case, it’s much more important to be liked (and much less hurtful) than to be loved.
In praise of the glorious one-night stand, a guy, previously unlucky in love, is shocked and elated at his good fortune, although he doesn’t quite remember how it happened! ‘Good Morning’ is uttered in several languages to his anonymous conquest as he ponders many questions regarding his circumstance, her identity and the appropriate etiquette for this odd occasion. God is thanked profusely in heavenly falsetto choruses for taking time from his busy schedule to bestow this rare blessing! The punchy flickering electro bass line drives the upbeat radio-friendly tune, It sputters out at the end, then recovers for a brief reprise – a true Sparks signature.
A fairy tale of sorts about a creature, who with blood on his hands one stormy night, hops into a song to seek shelter. The folk in the song let him in, only to find that he’s overstayed his welcome by making nagging commentaries about what the role and function of a song should be. Imagine at least three songs from Indiscreet playing simultaneously, perfectly blending into one complicated masterpiece!
I Can’t Believe That You Would Fall For All the Crap In This Song
A sizzling, chugging, distorted electric guitar sound underscores Sparks’ seething sarcasm of the trite love song. It also refuses to be a ballad, further protesting the constraints of the genre. Only Sparks would write a modern love song to mock all love songs. If not for the lyrics spelled out in the title, it would surely be a radio hit…but then, it would notbe a Sparks song!
Let The Monkey Drive
Sparks first visited the situation of love on the open road, on ‘Here comes Bob’ from their album A Woofer In Tweeter’s Clothing. Once again, it’s an accident waiting to happen! On this bouncy yet frenzied syncopated toe-tapper, a keyboard races with a violin. This lustful couple just can’t wait to hop in the back seat. They are ‘driven’ in more ways than one – by their animal instinct, and by an actual animal, when their accommodating simian servant obliges at the wheel.
A brief reminder that it’s more important to be liked than to be loved…
I’ve Never Been High
There are countless song lyrics with drug references, many of them quite popular. In fact, studies say that one in three hit songs contain drug references! This one is devoid of drugs – a nod to the rare minority who go through life straight. Perhaps this discredits the song from being about drugs at all! It will either rise to the top of the charts, or plummet to the bottom. In either case, it should happen quickly! The song is not lyrically allegorical like “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds”. In contrast to Clapton’s bluesy “Cocaine” or the primal scream of Lennon’s “Cold Turkey”, the ghost of Rachmaninoff is rampant on this beautifully embellished Sparks tune. Unlike Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album, this song is best enjoyed when fully coherent!
(She Got Me) Pregnant
This lyric just about sums it up – ‘Wham and bam and thank you sir!’ This guy’s back from ‘Suffragette City’, and his suffering has just begun! Occasional electronic bleeps married with classical strings and thunderous timpani make this a retro futuristic tune of entrapment, betrayal and abandonment. Only it is HEwho is left holding the baggage!
Lighten Up, Morrissey
A rival rock star diverts a groupie’s attention. However, he is not better on guitar, doesn’t have a better light show, and he’s not even sexier! He is Morrissey – politically correct, melancholy, vegetarian, and over the top on all accounts. He can’t stop thinking, and SHEcan’t stop thinking about HIM! Why can’t he just lighten up – like Sparks? This one is a true pumped-up power-pop masterpiece in any decade!
This Is The Renaissance
How many times have we thanked the lord for modern conveniences? Haven’t we all imagined how awful it must have been in olden days without the wisdom, amenities and cosmetics that we sometimes take for granted? Well, Ron Mael is a lot like us – he ponders all of this too, only he put it into a song! Thankfully, science, art and culture have highly evolved to a place and time where Sparks can exist! We can envision Marie Antoinette twirling to this stylistically Baroque tune. Harkening back to more recent olden times, the Charleston tempo interlude urges you to get up and soft-shoe. Gotta love the dramatic sudden finish. Listen by candlelight for full effect!
The Director Never Yelled ‘Cut’
Suspenseful cinematic strings carry the score – until the singer realizes the only one in suspense is HIM!This female Fellini is harsher on him than Hitchcock was on his actors in Rope.She directs his life, until she finally yells ‘cut’ at the abrupt ending. Russell’s perfect Beach Boys harmonies and ‘dit dit dits’ appear intermittently. Although seemingly out of context, they’re a welcome reprieve on this angst-ridden soundtrack in which the poor subject’s heart ends up on the cutting room floor.
Some people break up over the phone, some in person, but in this mini operetta, computer software assists. The new ‘Erase Me’ tool certainly comes in handy in this bitter ode to relationship dissolution! This song has many ‘movements’, and the best one is his disappearance from the hellish picture! We love the ‘Sharks vs. Jets’ break in the middle of the song, and Russell’s shoo-wop cadenza at the end.
The album’s six-minute denouement. The Pied Piper of this song is confused as to how he can be so well liked by everyone, yet also feel like Pierrot the sad clown. Having loved and lost, he tries to convince himself that like is better than love. The French-tinged lamenting waltz interludes link frenzied piano runs and guitar breaks to dejected narratives and falsetto choruses. The swelling Intro/Reprise music recurs at the end. The final note is that of a woeful oboe, leaving us in awe and reverent silence.
An added bonus!!!!
THE MONKEY & THE MAELS
Cover model Susie the chimp graciously shared her experience with us…
How did you get the chance to model for the new Sparks
Susie: Their agent contacted my agent. I’d never heard of Sparks, so they sent over their new CD, and I liked it instantly!
Was it easy working with Ron & Russell?
Susie: “Once their manager got them to behave and settle down, they were great. Quite intelligent too!”
Will you be coming to any of the shows?
Susie: “I wish I could, but some guy named Morrissey offered me a job.”
How was it for you Russell?
Russell: “When I walked in Susie shook my hand then got down to business. After an hour however, we had to stop shooting so she could have a nap. Once rested, we resumed. They said if she wasn’t fed, she may have ripped the piano to shreds, so we provided an expensive catered meal.”
And for you Ron?
Ron: “Perfect, just perfect!”
“Eeee Eeee Oooh Oooh Ahhh Ahh!!”