Sparks were formed in 1970 by the Mael brothers from Los Angeles, California. I have a long history of enjoying what they do, starting way back in the Seventies, and they have managed to maintain a high standard throughout the decades, however in recent years their music has leapt to a new level. Indeed, this album follows on from their highly acclaimed last album, Hippopotamus, and it is fair to say that, in my opinion, they may have surpassed it.
Present is the catchy piano and synth lines, along with Russell’s unique vocal style, delivering art-pop/rock songs with gusto and humour. They have the skill to take any subject and create something memorable, hence getting their message through very effectively, and I must say enjoyably. With a running time of fifty-four minutes, the fourteen catchy and straight to the point songs fall within three and four-and-a-half minutes in length.
All That kicks off the album with an acoustic guitar opening, the momentary wrong-footed feeling is soon dispelled when full-on Sparks mode resumes. They have the great ability to create catchy songs that get into your head and stay there, and next up are two earworm tracks, I’m Toast and the very likeable Lawnmower. These do what the title song Hippopotamus did on their last release. Lawnmower is Sparks at their most quirky; a song about one man’s obsession with his lawnmower, with lines like “I’m riding on my lawnmower, lawnmower” do I need to say more? Great fun and makes you want to hit replay to experience it again, if nothing else to make sure you heard the lyrics right.
As is usual, the titles of Sparks tracks almost give you the clues of what you are in for, the enjoyment level is consistent throughout the fourteen tracks, iPhone says it all for most people with the line “put down your fucking iPhone and listen to me” delivered in Russell’s unique style, accompanied by a great tune. Throughout, Russell’s vocals and Ron’s keyboard stylings are in perfect balance and remain the focus, superbly supported by other musicians (I was unable to find these other names, but please know I appreciate your excellent contributions!). To close the album is the lead song that was released to promote the forthcoming release, Please Don’t Fuck Up My World. If you are a Sparks fan you are probably already familiar with the content of this song and its meaning, if not the title gives a big clue. A song for our times perhaps.
This is a great release from the Brothers Mael, enjoyable and a fun listen, all delivered with top class musicianship, and following on from their last release it demonstrates their continuing ability to develop and create excellent new music. The album will be released as a digital download on the 15th May, but unfortunately the physical releases of CD and vinyl has been postponed until the 3rd July because of shipping issues due to the current world situation.
01. All That (4:44)
02. I’m Toast (3:32)
03. Lawnmower (3:39)
04. Sainthood is Not in Your Future (4:13)
05. Pacific Standard Time (4:23)
06. Stravinsky’s Only Hit (4:10)
07. Left Out in the Cold (4:18)
08. Self-Effacing (3:42)
09. One For the Ages (3:49)
10. Onomata Pia (2:52)
11. iPhone (4:01)
12. The Existential Threat (3:24)
13. Nothing Travels Faster Than the Speed of Light (4:25)
14. Please Don’t Fuck Up My World (3:24)
Total Time – 54:32
Russell Mael – Vocals
Ron Mael – Keyboards
Record Label: BMG
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 15th May 2020