Monday, September 11, 2006

CD Review No 1 - Sparks - Hello Young lovers

Gut Records Ltd. 2006

The album ‘Lil Beethoven’ three years ago set a well nigh impossible musical high point for any band to exceed. Let alone a band whose longevity and diversity of output is legendary. How come we ignored them for so many years? The answer is quite simple. Sparks in the Seventies were a unique mix of musical / lyrical wit and invention. However. From ‘No 1 in Heaven’ onwards Sparks rode any stylistic fashion train going from New Wave to Rave, with varying degrees of success. With ‘Lil Beethoven’ and ‘Hello Young Lovers’ they have rediscovered how to be innovative whist remaining quintessentially inimitable Sparks . From the opening mini operetta ‘ Dick Around’ you know that this is an unusual groundbreaking record. The Sparks renaissance continues.

Ron Mael has always had a preoccupation with the prescient dilemmas of the modern man in love. Check out ‘Amateur Hour’ from ‘Kimono My House’ , ‘Reinforcements’ from ‘Propaganda’ or ‘The Lady is Lingering’ from ‘Indiscreet’. He constantly reveals and revels in a particularly male form of neuroses. ‘ Hello Young Lovers’ is no exception and has many wonderful couplets like these :-

Think about the recent past,
The cynics said too good to last
But she could change her mind again
Oh, no, this movie said ’THE END’
So I will go about my day
Just dicking round, my metier
And realise that life is change
And furniture to rearrange’ 

‘The skies are starting to cloud up
But that wont slow me down
Your eyes are starting to well up
But that wont bring me down
‘Cause I’m waterproof, I’m waterproof
The pressure you’re exerting is irrelevant to me
I see you crying but I’m not buying your Meryl Streep mimicry
It’s misdirected, your voice inflected
For maximum sympathy

That’s the lyrical invention, the musical style develops further breadth on this record. ‘ Dick Around’ is not the only mini operetta, the disc finishes with the magnificent ‘As I sit to play the organ at Notre Dame Cathedral’. There is also the kitsch barber shop of ‘Here Kitty’. The barbed use of the Star Spangled Banner lyrics as ironic counterpoint to the Barn Dance that is ‘( Baby, Baby ) Can I Invade Your Country’. Also, the glory that is ‘Perfume’ with its simple lyrical premise harnessed to the sassiest and jauntiest swing beat.

It’s obvious those decades in the musical desert were not misspent. Whilst success eluded them, they broadened their musical palette. They can now parody any style with panache. ‘Hello Young Lovers’ successfully expands the classical fusion of ‘Lil Beethoven’ by restoring some of their earlier pop sensibilities.

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