#1 HITS 101: SPARKS
"This town ain't big enough for the both of us!"
If the title "#1 Hits From Another Planet" was created for one band, it would definitely be these guys. I've been meaning to spotlight Sparks for awhile. Many of you may already be familiar with their music, but for those who aren't, prepare yourself to be obsessed.
Sparks have done it all. Their sound ranges from operatic rock to smooth nineties dance and encompasses every conceivable genre in between. I could probably link their influence to almost any artist or band, but two comparisions that stick out most clearly are Queen and Pet Shop Boys. And, believe it or not, I think Sparks trumps both of them. That's hard for me to say, but I think it's true.
I mean, what other band is still making amazing, contemporary music more than thirty years after their debut?
Sparks is composed of brothers Russel (the singer) and Ron (the keyboardist) Mael. Their music is witty, creative, catchy, melodic and about every other positive adjective you can think of. And, despite all of this, they have never had a major hit in America. They've come close on several occassions, but they remain firmly a cult act. So, I've decided to spotlight some of their work, focusing not on the "hits," but on album tracks that best represent their work in each stage that they have gone through as a band. Enjoy!
Operatic Glam Rock (early 1970's)
My personal favorite era, the albums Kimono My House, Propaganda, Indiscreet, and Big Beat are all absolute classics and deliver some of the most creative, euphoric music you will ever hear. There are so many classic songs from this era, but I chose to "At Home, At Work, At Play" from Propaganda. It's especially ambitious and crazy. Seriously, though, I could have picked anything from this era and it would have been fantastic.
Also check out: This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us, Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth, Thank God It's Not Christmas, I Like Girls, How Are You Getting Home, etc.
This era comprises mainly two albums, The No. 1 Song In Heaven & Terminal Jive. Both are utterly brilliant and a complete change from their previous work. I chose "Just Because You Love Me" from Terminal Jive to highlight because I seriously think it could have been a major hit. The riff is just so catchy.
Also check out: Tryouts For The Human Race (about sperm!), Beat The Clock, When I'm With You, The No. 1 Song In Heaven, etc.
Sparks put out a number of albums in the eighties, with varying results. Generally, their early-eighties stuff is better than their late-eighties releases. My favorite albums from this period are In Outer Space and Whomp That Sucker. I chose to highlight "Rockin' Girls" from In Outer Space. It is one of my favorite Sparks songs and once the chorus hits, it's just perfect. it sounds a lot like 80's-era Queen.
Also check out: Funny Face, All You Ever Think About Is Sex, Tips For Teens, Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat, Suzie Safety, etc.
This is their more Pet Shop Boys sounding stuff and is exemplified by the two albums Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins, and Balls. Both are sleek sounding, intelligently funny albums and brought Sparks back to semi-popularity after their late-eighties decline. I chose "More Than A Sex Machine" from Balls, even though it was a single. Still, I love this song!
Also check out: When Do I Get To Sing 'My Way,' When I Kiss You (I Hear Charlie Parker Playing), The Calm Before The Storm, Now That I Own The BBC, etc.
Orchestral Art-Rock (2000's-current)
What consistantly amazes me is that this duo who've been around for over thirty years continue to put out amazing albums. I can't think of any other artist that's done this. Their new album, Hello Young Lovers (the follow up to Lil' Beethoven), came out in February and it's among their best. The first track, "Dick Around," is as epic as possible. It's like Bohemian Rhapsody turned up to 150%. You'll be blown away.
Also check out: Waterproof, May Baby's Taking Me Home, Metaphor, Perfume, The Rhythm Thief, etc.
So there you are... over thirty years of history and twenty albums crammed into one post. If you've never heard of Sparks, you're in for a treat! And if you have, I'd be interested in knowing what you think of my choices!
(you can buy -some of- their albums here - music is posted for evaluation purposes only. Please support the artists. If you hold the copyright to this song and wish it to be removed, contact me and I will delete it immediately.)