Hey, All You Sexxxeee Laydeeees! Welcome to Mark Prindle's All-Nude Mael Review!

(Once I get this webcam working, you men may want to avoid the site for a while)

*special introductory paragraph
*A Woofer In Tweeter's Clothing Demo Album (by Halfnelson)
*A Woofer In Tweeter's Clothing
*Kimono My House
*Big Beat
*Introducing Sparks
*No. 1 In Heaven
*Terminal Jive
*Whomp That Sucker
*Angst In My Pants
*In Outer Space
*Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat
*Music That You Can Dance To
*Interior Design
*Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins
*A Cute Candidate EP
*Balls But No Tits
*Lil' Beethoven
*Hello Young Lovers
*Exotic Creatures Of The Deep
*The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman (Original Swedish Broadcast Version)

When I was a young man of meager means - let's say ten years old, for example - I began to view the musical videos on the television. One of the more controversial of these promotional clips was that for a song called "All You Ever Think About Is Sex" by a band called Sparks. I didn't think much of the song, but I liked how the dirty old keyboardist with the tiny mustache kept getting hit with pies in the video (if memory doesn't lie). That's the last I ever heard of them, so I assumed that they were a go-nowhere one-hit-80s-wonder like Kajagoogoo, the Beach Boys or Ebn-Ozn. Then two decades later I found myself in a coffee/tea shop (enjoying neither, for I drink neither) with a young Russki named George Starostin. Interesting thing -- this George Starostin fellow also runs a record review web site somewhere on the Internet. I'm not sure where; hopefully some day somebody will invent a "directory" or "search-type function" that will allow one to find web sites in a way other than just taking random guesses at URLs. But at this tea/coffee shop, George wouldn't shut up about how great the first several Sparks albums were. Of course I, as a patriotic American and jingoist, had my doubts and wondered if perhaps this shifty Communist was indiscreetly trying to trick me into falling for some sort of socialist propaganda. It didn't help matters to hear that two of his favorite Sparks albums were called Indiscreet and Propaganda. But it turns out that the Red was right; early Sparks is some crazy wackass insane shib! Later, they just became a synth-pop dance band and went through a little slump before re-emerging like a butterfly as a wonderful vocal-focused classical music crazy band! Read on for specifics; I try not to go into specifics in my opening paragraph. All you need to know at this time is that Sparks are from L.A. and revolve around the brother-brother team of singer Russell Mael and keyboardist/songwriter Ron Mael.

These colors don't run!

Reader Comments
Yew mockin' me, boy? (*low, threatening Deliverance drawl*)

A Woofer In Tweeter's Clothing Demo Album (by Halfnelson) - Self-released 1969
Rating = 8

Don't you DARE get this rarity confused with the official release entitled A Woofer In Tweeter's Clothing, because it's completely different. Different songs, different band, different sound, different cover, different decade, different strokes, dissident aggressor - different! For you see, when Ron and Russell Mael of the Mael Brothers decided to form a rock and roll band during the late '60s, they hadn't yet invented new wave or embraced jaunty, herky-jerky, faux-operatic, spoof-classical quirkiness. Instead, they gathered 'round their guitarist Earle "Pass Me A Hanky" Mankey and one or two other nobody muches and created a chef d'oeuvre of what I personally would call "Bubblegum Art Psych." The instrumentation is consummate late '60s "mary jane" rock: Ron's buzzing, high-pitched organ sounds like Ray Manzarek's, Earle's guitar tone alternates between Youngbloods country jangle and big thick Cream soloing, Russell's bass thumps along through the madness like Roger Waters' and the drums are almost entirely non-existent. The songwriting is also much more heavily rooted in traditional psychedelia than you'd have thought the Maels capable. Lots of reverb on everything, ghoulish LSD chord sequences, Syd Barrett-style echoing noises, Moody Blues-like backup vocals -- how can this POSSIBLY be Sparks???? (you'll wonder if you ever happen across a copy).

Well, there are three things that stylistically link this (urine) specimen to Sparks' official debut two years later. The first is a pair of reusable songs: "Saccharin And The War" and "Roger" both began their lives on this release. The second is Russell Mael's voice. He sounds as fey and purposely irritating as he ever would, although it's quite "far out" to hear this vocal approach set to such heavy drug music. And number three: Miraculous Songwriting. I'm not telling you a hilarious joke when I call this a "Great Lost Psych Album." The sloppy long-haired melodicism is relentless, combining the sharp pop insight of the Monkees, the lava lamp fuzz of Iron Butterfly, the sick morbid tension of early Pink Floyd and the comic goodtime vibe of The Fugs. The fact that we've reached 2004 and these unwashed experimental tunes have still not seen official release is an unforgivable sin on somebody's part, and when I eat at Denny's with God next Thursday, I'm gonna see if he can't do something about it. Can you imagine pot-smokin' hard-lovin' motorbike psychsters digging on SPARKS!? Well, they would if given the opportunity to hear this baby. And it just may be that I'm the only man with the GUTS to give them that opportunity. The opportunity to hear this baby, that is.

Speaking of babies, I thought of a hilarious thing to say to proud newborn parents. When they offer you the heartwarming opportunity of cradling their new child in your arms, make a disgusted face and say, "I'm not touching that thing - it's made out of JIZZ!"

Either that or "No way! It's probably still got your PUSSY all over it!"

I'm a hilarious and well-liked man.

Reader Comments (Nathan)
Hey, I haven't heard these, but go to and you can sign a petition to get them officially released! (artofcode)
Yes, you are hilarious indeed!

Surely you could be a gentleman as well and encode the tunes off of the Demo Album and release it to the world at large (or at least to some of us folks who think you're groovy enough to email!)

When they finally release it on CD, I'll buy a freakin' copy. I promise! (TOM V.D.)
I finally hunted this baby down from the hidden pockets of the Internet. Well worth shuffling through all the scat porn and conspiracy theory sites it surrounds itself with. Seriously hard to find! Thanks for nothin, gooooogle.

Anyway, this album was well-worth searching for. A "lost" Sparks album from the 60's, how cool! It sounds like XTC's 25 O'Clock, but not as insincere and gay. Russell still sounds like Russell, and it has a few songs that, once discerning the chipmunk falsetto lyrics, have that trademark Sparks wit. Arts and Crafts Spectacular is probably the best example. It's a super-dramatic psychedelic song, but instead of being about popping marijuana pills or Vietnam, it's about an arts and crafts fair and what people brought to it (Seashells painted blue, landscape paintings made of rice, quilts etc.) Every song is neat in its own way, and despite a few odd mastering decisions (sometimes it gets a little shrill), it sounds spectacular for having the "demo" monicker. Sometimes you can hear crackling between tracks, but that's minor, minor stuff. I return to it frequently like I do all Sparks albums, as the songs are supremely catchy and fun. The version of Roger on here's damn near identical, and the version of Saccharin and the War is fun an laid back. It sort of reminds me of "Stuck in the Middle with You" by the Not Bob Dylans. So in conclusion, run to your nearest FYE, ask if they have the album, and walk away disappointed, because this is one of the best albums ever! Happy hunting! (Chris Meerbott)
Hello Mr. Prindle,

A boring technical note. I just finished editing these tracks, mostly to adjust the EQ since the treble was extreme on several of them. These are a group of acetates strung together. Each one is different in terms of channel balance and EQ. But the best proof is that some tracks (2 & 10) are a lot scratchier than the others. Acetates wear out quick with repeated play and these two got more spins before they were strung together with the others. The story of 100 demo LPs seems pretty fishy from the evidence.

Add your thoughts?

Sparks – Bearsville 1971
Rating = 9

Alright, all you people who only know Sparks by their impossible-to-find demo album -- this 360 departure is totally gonna "wig" you out! When you hear it, your eyebrows are gonna shoot straight northward, hop off your head and fly way up in the air, causing a jet liner to crash into the ocean! Luckily, the plane is probably full of Atkins Diet pricks who don't give a flying fuckduck how many animals are mistreated and slaughtered just so they can get skinny for two months before turning into lardass pieces of shit again. JUST GET FUCKING LIPOSUCTION, YOU NON-SLAUGHTERHOUSE-VISITING BLIND MURDEROUS SELF-CENTERED MEAT-LOVING COW-MURDERING PRICKS!!!!

(*eats honey, thus raping a bee*)

This is, as far as I know, the very CREATION and NAISSANCE and BIRTH and BEGINNING of "new wave" music. The nerdy restless energy, clinkly-tinkly keyboard noises, reverbed surf guitar and taut, painful rhythms of unpleasantry that you've always associated with Devo, the Cars and the B-52s first saw the light of air sixty-two years earlier on this album by Sparks! In 1971!? The year of the Carpenters' Bless The Beasts And The Children and James Taylor's Mud Slide Slim And The Blue Horizon!? Yes indeed. In fact, what makes it even stranger is that aside from those three records, not a single other album was released in 1971, especially Who's Next and Led Zeppelin IV.

So let's describe it together. Me and you, today. The debut Sparks release is an extraordinarily peculiar, unprecedented, tongue-in-cheek aggregate of rock, pop, avant-garde experimentation, grandiloquent theatrics and imaginative, intoxicating song construction, all led by the high, wavery, mocking vocals of hippie freaker Russell Mael and the multi-toned keyboard work by his teen heartthrob brother with the Hitler mustache Ron. But it doesn't stop there. No, it doesn't not do so one bit. Because THEN you have to notice all the unusual percussion work ("Roger" features drumsticks played on glasses of water!), hard rockin' guitar work, tranquil moments of melancholy(those guitar harmonics in "Simple Ballet"! My heart!), operatic backup vocals, clear C/W influences here and there (the first guitar line on the album is from "Happy Trails," for Christ's ache!), carnival boisterousness, Elton John balladry (I love you, lovely AOR "Slowboat"!) and ooooooooh those lyrics. There aren't enough "o"s on a keyboard to describe the typical Sparks lyric. In fact, even if you substitute a 0, there's only two. I suppose I could type a "6" and cover up the top part with masking tape, but not only would that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but you know as well as I that I've been legally prohibited from using the numbers "6" and "9" since my December arrest for attempted statutory rape (she was "sexy and seventeen"; I was "a member of the Stray Cats" and "impotent")

Ron Mael is a snide motherfug. A snide, uproarious, non-politically correct, superceptive, sideways-thinking son-of-a-bastard. He is one of the few lyricists, in fact, whose humor is so dry that you'd think him a complete assholish prick with a big boner if so many of his lyrical ideas weren't so darned innovative. He was still just getting his start when they did this one, so it's not as "wack" as his work would quickly become, but it DOES include one song about trying to turn ballet into a popular trend ("Instead of, 'Hey, orange drink,' vendors will say, 'Get your souvenir posters of the ballet."), another about a man who spends all his money on big band records ("Follow me my lady to my home/See my large collection, some on loan/Of every big band record ever made/I had to sell my heater, so don't shake") and as a fine introduction to a career of lewd sexual commentary... (sigh)... a song by a man who wants to have sex with his sister.

Oh, I suppose I could pull a quote from that one for you too. How about "She ain't heavy/She's a brother to me"? Or "Nature, nurture - who's to say"? No, rather than either of those, which I'll erase before placing this review into the public online environment, I'll furnish the apartment of your mind with the poignant refrain: "Fa la fa lee/Anything between us is a felony."

So beyond the multi-genred music (did I mention the throbbing hard rock anthem "No More Mr. Nice Guys"? I know goddamned well I didn't, but asked anyway!!! That's cliched writing!), the higgledy-piggledy-doo lyrics and the new wavish revelations, Mr. Todd Rundgren contributes a mix job that is the band's very EQUAL in idiosyncracy. All kinds of pops, bloops and musical elements keep shooting out at you from everywhere, elements come and go like an unfaithful whore wife -- I mean, not to single out the first song on the album again, but he put the goddamned DRUM TRACK in ping-pong stereo! Every first and third beat are in the left speaker, every second and fourth in the right. Then there's the dark plinky piano way in the back of the right speaker, the country-western guitar coming in and out, the trembling pop bass filling all the empty space -- I can't say enough about what Todd has done here! Even if you don't like the music, the album is so FUN to listen to! It's like a party in your ears! In fact, it IS a party in your ears!!! Here! Blow out your candles!!!

It's not my fault your head is on fire. Get a bigger ear, ASSHOLE.

Reader Comments
Let's get serious : you're absolutely right .

Add your thoughts?

A Woofer In Tweeter's Clothing - Bearsville 1972
Rating = 9

This is a less new wave and more natural non-Rundgren production featuring pianos, violins and regal, orchestral, mock dramatics. Very much classical music influence here, but jokily/strangely. Ross Mail sings in a falsetto, very opera-minded, hilarious - you can't even understand the words because he sings them so slaphappily! The songs are kinda slow, I guess, if you're into Agnostic Front, but if you're into Queen, they're like that but EARLIER and funnier. Less serious. No other Sparks album is as off-kilter and deranged as the debut, but this one is at least full of butt-gusting piano/bass duets, classical music set to moronic lyrics, Fantomas-style vocalizing, Earle "Pickle Old Lanky" Manke's guitar twanging and most importantly for fans of music such as myself and people who enjoy music, melodies that you can't get out of your head! As Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra once sang, "I just can't get it out of my head." Also, "Mr. Blue Sky, please tell us why you had to hide away for so long." Also, don't forget to "hold on tight to your dreams."

Sure, you can't understand a word the opera star is saying, but listen to those notes he's singing them in! Resplendent! Harmonium! Spicy Texas guitar! Piano! Pulsating organ! Stygian sci-fi reverberations! Everything is blue. My dog has gas, and I don't mean George Bush. The really sad thing is that Sparks turned to shit almost eventually (before turning to GOLD again after that). So enjoy these powerful good albums, because there weren't many of them before they became electrosoporific Pet Shop Maels.

Let's look at the lyrical matter. In "Girl From Germany," the narrator's parents can't deal with his new girlfriend because of bad WWII memories. The best is "Here Comes Bob" - it's about a guy who makes new friends by crashing his car into theirs. HA! One is about nailing cows, that's not nice. One is narrated by the Louvre. The actual building. I guess it's a guest vocal. Another narrator is really excited about his new toy until he realizes that the batteries weren't included. That's about it. My wife says that it's interesting how one of the Sparks brothers purposely makes himself look goofy when the other one looks so hot. Because they look the same in their jawline!

Early Sparks is wisecracking virtuosity, like Mr. Zappa or Frank Bungle. "Moon Over Kentucky" sounds EXACTLY like Fantomas! They totally ripped it off! It's so sad how good ideas deteriorate with time, leaving slop like Pulling Balloons Out Of My Ass and Internal Decorations in their wake. This is basically just MUSIC, please -- pianos, violins, guitars, bass, drums - but really addictive, diverse, light, dark, short, long, a cover of "Do Re Mi," kingly, undulating, and the refrain "OVER AND OVER!" which you' - hang on, my wife is crying.

Why are you crying, wife?


Well, you're naked. Put on clothes.


Alright, who filled my wife with stupidity?

And remember - you can't spell "nudity" without "stupidity"! (and an 'n')

(*the next day*)

Wait! I remembered something else my wife said last night that actually has something to do with Sparks! I was playing this CD while reviewing it, and I heard her say, "They were good! If they put this out today, it'd be a hit. They were ahead of their time!" And this is MY WIFE we're talking about. She generally only likes songs about milkshakes bringing boys to the yard. (I'm like, "Sparks are better than this. Damn right they're better than this.")

Reader Comments
scuse me, but what about whipings and apologies? you're funny, but you missed some of the best stuff. biology 101? damn
Again !

Add your thoughts?

* Kimono My House – Universal 1974 *
Rating = 10

Just like with Radiohead's Kid A, it's impossible to listen to the first few seconds of this CD -- the slow fade-in of a heartbreaking organ refrain -- without getting a giddy feeling that something extraordinary is about to happen. And it IS! Sure, there's very little beauty or sorrow in the actual SONG ("This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us," or, as my Island Masters re-release calls it, "This Town Ain't Be Enough For Both Of Us"), but Christ Alive is it an incredible experience. It's an opera -- a classical operetta -- a prog/pomp/glam classical operetta that says all there is to say about the unique vision of Sparks. The dark, galloping melodrama of a spaghetti western, complete with gunshots, pseudo-metaphorical-socio-psycho-sexual-animal lyrics and the strongest ROCK production yet heard on a Sparks track. This terrific production/mix, with hard-hitting drums, sparkling clear keyboards of about four billion different tones, knife-sharp glam guitar noise, occasional violins and thumping bass (sorry, can't think of a good adjective for the bass), helps drag Come Over To My House into the upper echelon of satirical ostentatious classical-prog-glam rock music. Right above their closest competitors.... umm..... Queen? Yeah, you could compare the two, as long as you remember that Sparks were first. ;7) I actually really like Queen too, but we're on the topic of Sparks right now. So BACK OFF.

If you like bombast in your rock, sagacity in your songwriting, memorableness in your volume, organs in your guitars, loudness in your "serious art music," and a substantially gifted vocalist who seems to think he's a female opera singer, then you are going to LOVE Tarkus by Emerson, Lake and Palmer. You see, after Greg Lake's botched vasectomy dropped the band's collective ball count down to one and a half, the b

Sparks made a lot of great albums, but this one does the best job of actually MIXING, nee COMBINING 40 different genres, rather than presenting them in separate installments. In other words, on this release you do not get a CLASSICAL song followed by a GLAM song followed by an OPERA song followed by a JAZZ song, etc. Instead, you get ten magnificent and fully-composed classical/glam/opera/pop/hard rock/novelty songs in a row. The emphasis may twist and turn from track to track -- "Amateur Hour" is a gigantically gleeful "Sweet pop" variation, "Falling In Love With Myself Again" tosses church hymnery into the mixture-stew, "Here In Heaven" brings in pissed-off Lennon chordery, "Complaints" is fast, light and puffy, "Hasta Manana Monsieur" has a big B.O.C. hard funk rock riff driving its classicoperaglam, and so on, so forth and so on -- but the ACT, the VARIETY of all beingness splotched on tape all together in one track predates Mr. Bungle, Linkin Park and all other pretenders to the throne of throwing crap into a fan and expecting people to get it even though Nixon is still president.

Oh! That brings up an important point! From this point on, Sparks was no longer a "band." Ron and Russell moved to England after Woofer, replaced the rest of the band, and from this point on would always feature themselves alone in cover photos. But now it's time for my weekly lyrical explanations! This one is full of incredible and twisted story ideas the likes of which the world hasn't seen since Hitler days! "Amateur Hour" attempts to cheer up early-shootin' teenaged boys by explaining that it always takes a while before a person is any good at layin' her the dique (and that's okay!), "Here In Heaven" is a woeful plea from a dead boy in Heaven to the living girl who backed out on their suicide pact, "Thank God It's Not Christmas" is a venomously bitter rumination from an aging man who hates the holidays because he has to spend them with his boring wife, "Talent Is An Asset" for some reason paints Albert Einstein's parents as overbearing Jewish busybodies, "Hasta Manana Monsieur" is an knee-slapper narrated by a guy who's fallen in love with a foreign girl but doesn't even know what language she speaks (the album title comes from a lyric in this song, incidentally) and maybe best of all, "Equator" is a cry of grief and longing from a boy to a girl who told him she would meet him "on the equator," but didn't tell him where! See, I don't know if you have equators in your country, but here in the U.S., the equator is ass big.

Reader Comments (Martin Gordon)
"(sorry, can't think of a good adjective for the bass)".

Huh! Here are some suggestions:p> Clangourous (I like this), clanking (a bit ambivalent, but acceptable), raucous, nimble (rather Victorian but still OK), erudite. Yes, erudite is the one, I think. p> Forget all about: deep, pulsating, throbbing, pulsing. (We don't do that).
Of course. But it was too easy.
I don't have a massive Sparks collection, but this used to be one of my favourite British glam rock records! Way back in my heady fan days of Bowie, Roxy Music, early Eno and Suede, Kimono My House was to me the perfect amalgamation of everything those gay fags stood for. Tons of great songs, with only marginal errings in quality. No diversity - just an album's worth of exponents for this great sound. Definitely preceded New Wave. When I first heard this album on vinyl I thought it was something like ABBA. My dad bought it back in the day and I was all like "oh, girl group pop" - I had no idea the singer was male at all! Nowadays such ambiguity does not exist in my mind, but back in my days of stupid youth such mistakes were common.

Honestly though, "This Town Ain't Big Enough..." though performed shittily in a recent contemporary cover version by Mr Justin Hawkins of the Darkness (who, unlike many of the bands they imitate, started off sucking rather than getting to that stage after even just one good song) is an unfallible classic of power pop that both Dad and I can enjoy. Yes, when the Old Pa is not screaming at the stereo while it blares crazy noise music of hell, we are both enjoying lovely poptones of saccharine glee and campy smartassness that are to be found in such shoulda hits as "Falling In Love With Myself Again", "Hasta Manana Monsieur" (sp?) and "Lost & Found". Some songs cause him to weep unconsolably with their sad Andrew Lloyd Webber-esque tales of melodramatic tragedy ("Here In Heaven" is the only song here that doesn't sound sickeningly smiley, a big ol' musical of sorrow up there with "Any Dream Will Do" and that shit song from CATS) but do so with clevers and wiley intelligence that keep the melodies up fore.

This all sounds a lot like Blondie actually, especially "Lost & Found" and "In My Family". Hmm. There IS diversity here, but in melody. They come up with new tunes to sound diverse instead of coopting other, less original sounds. This all reads a lot like an Adrian Denning review or something.

Well, despite all this, I can't give it a 10. There is a little sameness here, but far less so than any other band would encounter when attempting a similiar record. It's near perfect, though! No skipping required and a great purchase for glam rock fans (mainly because the overhyped "classics", like Ziggy, are no good really). I don't think this kind of record could ever achieve a 10. I dunno? This is hard.

Right, 9/10 for everyone, but definite 10/10 for those who still worship Bolan and Ferry.

Add your thoughts?

Propaganda - Universal 1974
Rating = 9

This one isn't as musically complicated as the last one, but it's as big and vivacious as a giant colorful lollipop with a huge grin that goes around eating people. Super-cheerful organs join gigantic drum-and-guitar blasts of pompous glamour decadence for an overall experience not unlke visiting a haughty British music hall in 1920 and finding Mick Ronson onstage "Jamming" with the band. (Keep it under your hat, but this actually happened.) This wonderful anti-depressant of a record is sprightly and happy like an amusement park all the way, but filled with brash rollerskate '70s fuzz action and serious classical music influences that astonishingly mesh perfectly with the hand-clapping bubblegum blitz. Would Bach have joined the Bay City Rollers if they'd invited him? Yes indeed, he would have. But ONLY if they promised to play British music hall music like that favored by Mr. Paul McCartney (of The Kinks). At least this is what Bach told Mick Ronson back in 1724 when Mick was searching for 1.21 jigowatts and desperately rebuffing the romantic advances of his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather.

In some ways, I suppose you could call this "power pop," except that it's far too raw, noisy and busy to fit comfortably alongside any other band in that tepid, near-worthless genre of shit. And that's how I feel about "jazz."

This record saw another Sparks anthem take root and fly away: "Something For The Girl With Everything" would have fit like a jigsaw puzzle into Kimono My House, with its glittery carnival organ, machine gun drum rat-a-tats, ridiculously operatic falsetto vocals and lyrics both wit-tastic ("See, the writing's on the wall/You bought the girl a wall/Complete with matching ball-point pen") and vehemently misogynist ("Here's a really pretty car/I hope it takes you far/I hope it takes you fast and afar/Wow, the engine's really loud/Nobody's gonna hear a thing you say".... "Hey, come out and say hello/Before our friends all go/But say no more than just hello."). Why is Mr. Ron Mael so bitter towards the faer sex? Maybe he's just a foul-minded jokerman, who knows. It's impossible to take seriously when presented in such a mindlessly uptempo (and indecipherable) manner by his gigantic-ranged younger brother Rusty.

I love this record. You know Cheap Trick's "I Want You To Want Me"? This album is that song over and over again, but with pink-tickled joy tones playing on top. Lyrically, Ron covers... oh, sex... ahhh... sex, .... a little boy trying to get past a huge conglomeration of friendly child molesters on his way home... a guy who has sex for only one reason --- he LOVES KIDS! ("Your bit and my bit'll do their dance to body rumblings and tumblings and rote romance and all the while I'm thinking, deepy thinking, hey what's it gonna be - sod or celebrity?")... let's see, then there's one about how the Earth screws you with hurricanes and what-have-you, yet ANOTHER song about a guy who doesn't want to be left alone with his wife, one about a girl who leaves her man for a doctor ("I do hope that he makes you well/Say, is there any cure for Hell?)... and finally, a goodbye wish to the inhabitants of Noah's Ark... from those left behind.

Jerkasses might complain that the music only tackles one mood (almost insanely happy), but think about what would have happened if we had accused Paul Revere's Minutemen of tackling only one country (Britain)! You see? You see what would have happened?

(long, penetrating silence)

Well, I'll tell you what would have happened. We'd all be putting another shrimp on the BARBY!!! That's what would have happened!!!!


Reader Comments
I begged my mom to buy me this record when I was 11 years old after seeing them on Don Kirschner's Rock Concert. After listening I was amazed and still am 30 years later. It stacks up nicely to Sweet's Desolation Blvd. and Queen's Sheer Heart Attack both of which I obtained that year to disrupt my pre-adolescent doldrums. "At Home, at Work, at Play" still stands as THE greatest glam rock song ever recorded. I dare anyone to prove me wrong! Favorite moment: The one second space between the a cappella intro and the greatest glam song ever that I mentioned above. What a rockin' cool transition!! Sadly, this LP was stolen from me some years ago and I haven't been able to find it. Good review. I was happy to see the 9 star rating. It is indeed a beautiful record.
OK (Jakub, Poland)
How are you Mark? Me , never better. OK Marky-Mark. "Propaganda" is a bit less entertaining than "Kimono My House" but in fact it`s not a lesser album. Why? I can`t explain. More hits or hooks? Don`t know. But 9/10 is fair. But man!!! "Kimono..." its a KILLA`. TOP 10/10. yeah right
Brilliant, and the peak of their 3-album peak (Kimono/Propaganda/Indiscreet). "Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth" is definitely one of the best things they recorded. And some CD reissues include the bonus song "Marry Me," which was originally a B-side. "Marry Me"? A B-side?? How crazy is that? If you haven't heard it, I....gag...choke! Cough!! Don't tell me you haven't heard it. My gosh.

Add your thoughts?

Indiscreet - Island 1975
Rating = 9

What you encounter here is, like Pornograndma, a huge grin on the face of music. The difference is that, with the "glam genre" supposedly on tbe wane - and I don't mean Wane Newton! Heh heh heh ahhh yeah - newton, the Sparxxx opted to fortify their cockeyed marketing plan with a whole bunch of old-timey pop and classical instruments and styles. Not that they didn't do this before in the context of their maniacal kooky world, but on this one, they take it to an extreme never attempted before or since. I've taken the statue of liberty to write down the accursed "genre" of each track and have come up with the following list:

1on. Old-timey Music Hall with Gospel Flourishes at the End
2oo. Total Glam!
3ee. Bouncy Continental Frenchy Piano Dance?
4or. Parade March with a Whistle!
5ive. Serious Classical Music Played by String Section
6ix. Pretty Pop/Rock into Laugh-o-Plenty Speedy Chorus!
7en. Oompah-Pop.
8ate. Classical Parlour Music for the King
9yn. Old Timey with Violin, Barroom Piano, Fiddle, Clapping
10en. Dark '70s Radio Rock.
11en. Big Glam Glee with Fast Loud Organ
12elv. Roaring '20s Flapper Jazz
13een. Classical with Piano and Violins

Some might find this record a bit too novel and jocular to be treated as a serious artistic statement, but it's as serious as anything else -- it's serious about Entertainment! Think of it as a Las Vegas variety show with a big ol' gay orchestra of rock instruments, horns, strings and keyboards, accompanied by topless dancers and a bottomless Tony Bennett.

A bottomless Tony mmmmm.

I hope my wife doesn't want to make love for a few days, because I'm done now.

The lyrics then. Okay, let's look at it from Ron Mael's point of view. Everybody writes songs about girls, women and ladies. A lot of songs are even about making love with them. But they very rarely sound like the vocalist is actually singing to or about an actual living being. The words often just sound contrived to fit pop music's image of what a female person is supposed to be (pretty, loving, hottt, occasionally independent or hard-to-get). But Ron writes about women the way that men actually THINK about women in our worst moments. Not all of us are assholish enough to VERBALIZE these thoughts (thank God), but Ron knows we feel them and he doesn't merely verbalize them like WASP or The Knack might do -- he exaggerates them until they're just so ludicrously misogynist and sexist that you can't help but laugh at them. Is he creating characters or just being himself? Well, if he really were as sexist as his lyrics make him out to be, he sure wouldn't be broadcasting it in such unappealing ways, would he? Hell no - he'd be growing his hair long and writing girl-winning songs about "sexy ladies" and "rockin' all night!" instead of lyrics like "Hips are spreading, and they never smile/They always demand that they drive," "Don't let me push you baby/What I like is your independence/Real spunk, real independence/And there's my car," and "It's gonna be all right/If it ain't, don't blame me, it's your looks."

The most interesting thing about this caustic type of songwriting (aside from the fact that it's always set to really happy music) is that when he says something nice about somebody, you really get the feeling he MEANS it. For example, two of these tracks - "It Ain't 1918" and "Miss The Start, Miss The End" - are about truly happy couples who enjoy each other's company and appreciate each others' friendship. The humor derives from the rest of the world's reaction to them. In the former, formerly amused neighbors get completely pissed off at a couple who insists on living happily with centuries-old clothes, home, car and customs, finally screaming at them, "It ain't 1918 for us or for you/If we can't enjoy it, then neither will you!" The latter is a bitchy little diatribe about a couple who arrives late to every event and then leaves before it's over. At first, it seems like Ron is complaining about how dimwitted they are, but his true feelings come out when he finally admits, "You and I have got to see the start/You and I have got to see the end/We need more than just each other/So much more than just each other/They don't need more than each other/Not much more than just each other/They don't need the total picture/Just a drawing of each other hung inside their bungalow/Where wondrous things are all discovered."

Anyone who followed this band from the beginning must have been simply blown away by how they managed to do it over and over, year after year. I mean, how many brilliant albums can one band record in a row before starting to run short on ideas?

Five. Or six if you count the unreleased demo.

Final note to budding musicians and their musical buddies: You're not doing yourself any favors when you take the longest, most fully developed and emotionally resonant song on your album --- and entitle it "Tits."

Reader Comments
OK again.
Geez!!! After 3 or so hearings - it`s supercatchy perfect piece of music and it`s faaaaar better than Cockney Rebel.

Now i`m Sparks-fanatic. Figure that....One of the best LP`s of 70-ies, no doubt about it. [fuck the Floyd`s !!!!!]
My favorite Sparks. Consistently good and in my opinion, more musically interesting than the last two albums. The songs are all really different from each other, and some of them sound more like opera or classical than pop. I don't even know how to describe some of the others, but they pretty much sound like what Mark says they do. And Indiscreet does seem silly at times. The music can sound very serious, while the songs are about pineapples and tits. It's really great, though. The lyrics are amazing, as usual. I have the CD reissue, and it has the bonus tracks "Profile", which is good, and "The Wedding of Jaqueline Kennedy to Russell Mael", which is stupid. Buy it!

Hey Smarks,

I was just rediscovering this record, not unlike Steve Perry rediscovers you in “Faithfully” (umm… so when the are we getting around those Journey reviews?!!)

The tune, “Thanks, But No Thanks” came on and subject of the song dawned on me: Sung from the point of view of a child, Russell is ordered by his overprotective parents "not to dilly-dally" and to "come right home"... because he is regularly pursued by child molesters?!! Thing is, the kid doesn’t believe it. He knows that “you’re all ok,” yet it true predatory fashion they, “offer him a ride in style and something sweet to make me smile.” Yikes.

In the world of Sparks, the skeptical kid could be right. Maybe his parents say the world is cruel because they prefer it cruel. However, it's a bit strange that the kid has multiple pursuers and that they're "familiar faces each and all". Is the Mael's neighborhood overrun with child abducting creeps? Maybe they should think about moving to a nicer neighborhood.

Add your thoughts?

Big Beat – Island 1976
Rating = 8

Are you blind or is Russell Mael starting to sound a little like Ric Ocasek (who didn't exist yet in 1976)? Check out "Confusion" - that's Ric Ocasek-Mael!

You are distressed to see that Sparks is no longer getting "dressed to the 9's" by Mark Prindle's highly-coveted (and pornographic -- those red dots are nude men!) rating system. So let's discuss this issue. As English Beat vocalist Fred Willard might say, "W'happen?" Three things in particular:

A. A desire to do more stripped-down straightforward hard rock material. Don't ask me why; I don't know why. Maybe they wanted a hit of some sort?

B. A desire to bury Ron's keyboards way down in the mix so you can't hear them unless you staple the speaker to your ear. Again, I have no idea why. Maybe they were trying to compete with The Ramones?

C. Lyrics that are much less funny and more sort of depressing.

D. They had moved back to the U.S. and recruited an entirely new band.

And #3 - The weakest, laziest, sloppiest, ugliest and emptiest mix EVER. You know who "produced" it? Rupert Holmes. Does that name sound familiar at all? Perhaps he produced some of those hot early Elvis records? Or did some work with Pink Floyd in the late '60s? Say, maybe he was one of those young hot punk rock producers out to show the world a new sound? NO!!!!! RUPERT HOLMES WROTE THE FUCKING "PINA COLADA SONG"!!!!! WHO THE FUCK HIRES THE GUY WHO WROTE THE FUCKING "PINA COLADA SONG" TO PRODUCE THEIR FUCKING ALBUM FOR THEM?!?!?!?

Now I'm sure there are some nitpicking nillywillers out there who would argue that Mr. Holmes didn't actually write the "Pina Colada Song" until 1979. HOWEVER, surely even THEY must see the impracticality of an uncompromising artistic rock band choosing to work with a guy whose best-known prior experience was a shitty album by Barbara Streisand of Yentl fame.

Now I'm sure there are some shitkicking cherrysnickers out there who would argue that Ms. Streisand didn't actually star in Yentl until 1983. HOWEVER, surely even THEY must see the impracticality of a world-famous singing sensation diva choosing to work with a guy whose best-known prior experience was THE FUCKING "PINA COLADA SONG"!!!!!

(1.21 jigowatts)

My left work shoe is unbearably squeaky. I feel like a real tool walking around the office. As for Big Beat, you can hardly hear the thundering distorted rock and roll guitar at all because Rupert has buried it about 400 audio miles behind loud, effete drums and Rusesssleel's singingness. And that's pretty much ALL you can hear -- the drums and the vocals. If you're sitting right in front of the speakers, you may make out a faint bass guitar and occasional piano or keyboard note that sounds like it's coming from an apartment down the hall, but for the most part there is just NO energy or fullness in this mix. How the hell did this make it out of the studio? The songs sound completely empty! Like I said, it's pretty obvious that they were going for a more stripped-down and palatable sound, but this just sounds rushed and half-finished.

So why the 8? Well, the songs are still pretty great. Catchy, at any rate. There's a whole lotta early rock 'N' roll floating through Chuck Berry dollars (four-chorders --- GET IT!?!?! I MADE THAT UP!!!) like "I Want To Be Like Everybody Else" and "Everybody's Stupid," as well as some very cool Nazareth-style hard rock chord sequences like "Nothing To Do" and "Big Boy." (or does it just feel that way because Nazareth also has a song called "Big Boy"? Curse thee, natural correlations!) Then of course there's the tuneful pop that Ron could write on his sheep at this point, the most wonderfullest example this go-round being the hilarious, ineffably singalongable "Throw Her Away (And Get A New One)." I'm singing along right now -- and I'm in church!!!!

What? Well, hell yeah, I'm getting molested! Why the hell else would I go to church?

But again, you're basically looking at what was by far the most basic, normal record Sparks had yet released. Hard rock and pop guitar chord sequences, midtempo 4/4 beats and Cheap Trick-worthy melodies. You likely won't be surprised to discover that the only complicated, musically challenging track on here ("I Like Girls") was actually written four years earlier.

Time for Mark Prindle's Sparks Lyrics Discussion Time? Bullies, boredom, obsession with the fleeting quality of life, driving fast, confusion, insanity and -- in a track so fluffernuttery it made me laugh out loud in front of my wife yesterday -- "White Women." Never in my 160 pounds on this Earth have I come across a track that seems so blatantly racist while actually being just unbelievably stupid. You can almost smell the NAACP hearing it, going, "Hey! Wait a minute!!!," grabbing the lyric sheet in disbelief, reading through it three or four times and finally concluding, "Umm.... Huh?"

Hmm. Here's something. Ron Mael is wearing a Knack-style skinny tie on the cover. Now I'm sure there are (etc etc The Knack weren't around yet), but perhaps they were trying to get in on the ground floor of straight-up punk-lite new wave? Who's to know and who's to say. Nobody -- ESPECIALLY the band members, who are all heroin addicts to this very day.

Darn that Spellcheck. I of course actually typed "her groin addicts." If you're entering the World of Sparks for the first time, don't start here or you'll never be able to tell that they're actually fairly intelligent guys. Start earlier. At the womb, as a matter of fact. While you're still in there floating around in amniotic fluid with your high-speed umbilical cord connection, go to eBay and bid on Kimono My House. When you finally pop out, you'll be so happy with your purchase, you won't even MIND the fetal alcohol syndrome!

Reader Comments
listen when i was like 11, i got hit by a car, and while i was in the hospital, i asked for this album. we already had it, and i was already sick of it, but i read an interview with the brothers m and they said that white women was a joke about how in fashion it was in certain circles to date non-whites. tacky, but not necessarily racist. just fyi (Jeff DeCuir)
I was reading your review of Sparks' BIG BEAT album, and getting a kick out of it 'cause the mix has always annoyed the fuck outta me, too.

Now, the first few times I listened to the album, I came up with a theory: The album was originally intended to be called "Big Boys" or "Everybody's Stupid", but then....then....something HORRIBLE happened: The mix of the album they did on unreliable speakers was finally heard on a decent stereo and they discovered the drums were mixed up waaaaaaaaay to fuckin' loud! So what did they do? Remix the album? Ah, hell no....they retitled it "Big Beat". Pure economic genius.

Have you ever seen the movie ROLLERCOASTER? Besides being a great example of how to stretch a 45 min Barnaby Jones plot to a 90 minute movie ( "OK, time to press this button and KILL THEM ALL!!!! Oh, wait, somebody's coming, better hold off...."), it has segments of two Sparks songs performed live! Now if you had to choose a band to play at Magic Mountain, wouldn't Sparks be your choice, too? Of course. Just make sure to politely ask them not to bring the female dancers in Nazi uniforms. Thanks.

Okay, so how do Sparks fit into the movie's rather complex plot? Well....While they're playing the song "Big Boy", the camera is on a portly guy trying to diffuse a bomb. Get it? Yeah. It's pretty hard to feel the movies intended tension while Mael keeps chirping "Big Boyyyyyie" in the background. Anyway, I highly recommend this movie. No, really I do. Besides having some class scenes like serious actors discussing mad bombers while standing in front of a wall full of stuffed animal toys, the Sparks too brief performance is pretty damn cool, especially when Ron gets rowdy on the keyboard.

....and who would've guessed young Helen Hunt was a Sparks fan?
Big Beat is a unique Sparks album and for this reason it should be treasured. It is the only serious, straight ‘rock’ album that Ron and Russell have recorded, and it gives an insight into how Sparks would have sounded had they gone down the ‘traditional rock band’ route. Notice how Sparks albums from the 1980’s sound generic and interchangeable whereas the albums from the 1970’s are individually distinguishable. You can check out my Sparks reviews at This very spot!
I suppose you know musicHound rock...This one is definitly a Woof! one in my book.Pure piece of shit. Can't believe this came after the glorious 5 first releases.They must have been hill or something . (Peter Elsen)
Not a Big Beat but a big dissapointment for me in late 76 after all the great albums Sparks did …
Also worth noting is that Mick Ronson was originally intended to rock the geetar on this here LP.. Ron Mael said in an interview later that demos were actually recorded with Mick that sounded FAR better than what ended up on the album. would be most fab to hear these don't cha think!! Ronson couldn't do it b/c he was touring at the time with some other band i'm forgetting while the Big Beat sessions were going down.

Anyway Big Beat still kicks ass but yeah to think of 'what could've been' with Ronson + better production and you might just have practically perfect album #6 by the Sparks boys instead of what are ears recognize as somewhat inferior by comparison... Also Joey Ramone said he always wanted to cover 'Nothing to Do' but the other Ramones vetoed it - now this would've made total sense to me and it's another 'what coulda been' with this LP.

I think it'd be nice if the album cover existed on a huge billboard somewhere in the far reaches of the Amazon or if it replaced the Statue of Liberty at the end of Planet of the Apes.

Add Your Thoughts?

Introducing Sparks – Epic 1977
Rating = 7

In another "SPARKS F(red d)URST," Introducing Sparks finds the Maelmen engendering their pop songplay with the faceless competence and radio-readiness of seasoned L.A. session musicians and professional background vocalists. Though it was probably not intended as such, the result is an almost LOL near-parody of AOR pop music. Most of the melodies themselves are solid -- the keyboard/piano is back up in the mix, and there's yet again quite a bit of nostalgia pouring through the early-'60s-esque melodies -- but the guitar, bass and drums are completely devoid of any energy or creativity, as if the crazy Maels are simply singing and plinking along with pre-recorded karaoke tracks. And who ever expected to hear perfectly tuneful and inoffensive background vocals on a SPARKS record? You know that Sparks annoy the hell out of most people, right? I did mention that somewhere, right? The operatic falsetto vocals and sudden jagged movements of their finest work isn't generally considered "music to the ears" of Timothy White or other commercial rock fans. But there's no reason why THIS record shouldn't be accepted by such watery human beings, aside from the fact that it all sounds like a big joke.

The fact that this is still the only Sparks album to be unavailable on CD leads me to figure that they themselves must hate it, which is a real shame because it's not a bad record at all. I consider it Sparks' equivalent of the Ramones' Pleasant Dreams: a bare-faced stab at commercial success that is doomed from the start by the songwriters' inability to realize that it's not 1963 anymore. And if there's anything deficient about the album, that's basically it. Nicely laundered production, graceful singing, agreeable pianowork - but most of it sounds like Frankie Valli and the Beach Boys! Only three songs deviate drastically from this blueprint: (1) the violin-bedraggled "I'm Not" sounds like early ELO, (2) "Goofing Off" is Russian babushka music, (3) "Girls On The Brain" is electric blues, the most vile form of art since Caveman Poop Drawings.

Having said that, I'm man enough to admit that I'd still have a soft spot in my heart for an adorable aquatic negro bluesman cartoon character named "Robert Crayfish." So GET THE HELL ON IT, HANNA-BARBERA!!!! THIS IS MY WATCH, SEE??? IT'S NOT RUNNING BACKWARDS, SEE????

Lyrically, only a couple of these songs are funny, so I'm not even gonna bother. I think it's far more crucial for me to tell you what happened the other night. Okay, see, I'd been drinking because I'm in a popular fraternity here on campus, and all of a sudden my wife (here on campus) looked at my masculine nude figure and said, "You need to cut your pubic hair - it's not the '70s anymore!" So umm... then I.... err... scissors.... aahhhh.... the razor. I mean, I was careful! I'm no schlemiel! I wasn't about to CUT anything, of course. Aside from the offensive hair. But yes, well, aaaaahhhh..... In spite of my best efforts, my pubic hair now looks EXACTLY like it did in the '70s.

When I was 6.

Add your thoughts?

No. 1 In Heaven – Repertoire 1979
Rating = 9

Listen at this bonkers thing that happened to me at the occupation today. And this is TRUE. That's why it's so funny! First of all, to set up a kind of background for the anecdote, I didnae get much sleep last night because there was a huge electrical storm that began the exact moment I went up to bed (12:15 AM) and continued to keep me awake until around 3:30 AM. Not only that, but Henry The Dog was afraid of the storm, so I was busy comforting him and telling him it was okay (which, I felt, it was). So I was at the office this morning doing my work and struggling to stay awake like a quality employee might do, when suddenly I completed an activity at which I had been "hard" (boner) at task. (?) And see, as a general rule for invoicing purposes, I keep a running tally of my work activities and time spent on them. So just then, I was trying to make a note about how I'd written a new introduction for a Sphere media advisory so that I could distribute it to HR media. That's "HR Media." As in "media that cover human resources issues." So halfway through typing the sentence, my mind wandered, my eyes closed, an odd micro-dream took over my thoughts, and when I opened my eyes a moment later, this is what was typed on the screen in front of me:

Sphere - Drafted new introduction to media advisory, for distribution to cross-town diners.

I don't know! I have no idea what I might have been dreaming to make me write that. But write it I did and now I have to somehow justify sending out a media advisory to a bunch of random people eating lunch on the east side. Luckily, I made up for it by making up a hilarious rhyme that had everybody laughing from Timbuktu to popular '80s one-hit wonder Timbuk 3. The rhyme goes a something like this: "When an eel hits your eye/And its teeth make you cry - That's a Moray!"

Yes, we all had a good laugh about that one down at the marine biology lab. But ocean safety is no laughing matter. Here are some basic ocean safety tips to help make sure your next trip to the beach goes "swimmingly" and is "swell.":

- Swim in Lifeguarded Areas
- Never Swim Alone
- Don't Dive Into Unknown Water or Into Shallow Breaking Waves
- Ask a Lifeguard About Beach and Surf Conditions Before Swimming
- If You Are Unable to Swim Out of a Strong Current, Signal for Help
- Rely on Your Swimming Ability Rather Than a Flotation Device
- If You're a Girl, Don't Wear Any Clothes
- Look For, Read and Obey All Beach Safety Signs and Symbols
- If in Doubt, Just Stay Out!

Now that we're all much safer than we were just a few minutes ago, let's discuss No. 1 In Heaven by The Sparkles. But first! Hey! How about a joke? Check this out. I made this up today - my wife loved it so much, she made a really ugly, hateful face at me. Here goes: If Suzie has three apples, then she gives one to Bill, then her father brings her five but takes one, then she gives one to her grandmother --- then what is that big grey animal in her backyard?


Okay, the album. Here it is -- tha last great record that Sparks would make for a "hella" long time. It's all downhill from here. No up. No return. No going home again. No where man. No se. No lan Ryan. No ugat. But Oh! What a great final great album for a "hella" long time it is. And what is it? One word: DISC.

As in, "Get your platform boots, everybody! It's Disc time!" If you thought the Rolling Stones went "Disc" with "Miss You" and "Hot Stuff," or if you thought Rod Stewart went "Disc" with "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?," just wait til you hear No One Comes From Heaven by Sparks. This is True Red Hot DISC Music! So everybody put on your Welcome Back Kotter t-shirt and DISC to that hot four-on-the-floor dance beat and whippingly awesome synth noise galoricle! By the time it's over, you'll be a DISC DUCK caught in a DISC INFERNO! Take it from me, Sparks put the OOOOOOOO in "Disc"!

Just synthesizers, dancing drums and Wailin' Russell, these six songs are veritable piles of cool noises, bangin' uptempo stereo action and crisp, gated (reverbed? lightly delayed?) pumpin' rhythms to get you and your old lady (mother) out on the dance floor for some sweaty John Travolta boogie. An odd decision, but - thanks to some killer synth riffs - a five-star way to put the pizazz back in their sound. Who but whom couldn't enjoy the lurid, descending Satan-tones of "Tryouts For The Human Race" (which is narrated by live sperm), the high-speed happy-chord exchange of "Academy Award Performance" (about a woman who's 'all lies and actin'"), the weighty minor-key "La Dolce Vita" (which bashes gold diggin' women), the euphonious piano line and African pulse of "Beat The Clock" (one of the funniest songs Ron has ever written -- let me get back to this one in a minute), the anthemic violin synths and ethereal ELO prettiness of "My Other Voice" (whose lyrics concern themselves with THE VOCAL EFFECT HE USES IN THE SONG) and the two-part elation of "The Number One Song In Heaven" (which you're hearing "because you're closer than you think")? Nobody. NOBODY! Certainly not producer Giorgio "Armani" Moroder, whom Sparks lured all the way over from Nazi Germany to help transform them from nerdy Los Angelenos into Donna Summer. The album only has six songs, but they add up to 34 fantastic moments of treating your living room rug like a disco ball.

Now then, about "Beat The Clock." Lyrics include: "Entered school when I was two/ PhD'd that afternoon /Never entered any sports /Didn't look too good in shorts/ Got divorced when I was four."

Go ahead and chuckle. Everything's okay. Except for this whole Iraq fiasco with the prison abuse. Oi! Don't get me started on the Iraq prison abuse! Oi Gevolta! Bar mitzvah, my chutzma!

Reader Comments
Beat the Clock is a classic!

Add your thoughts?

Terminal Jive – Repertoire 1980
Rating = 4

Hey, it's Laura Branigan!

My bad. Actually, THEIR bad. It might not be all their fault though; apparently they submitted a literal Junior Mint Box full of songs to Giorgio Moroder and he rejected all of them except one, demanding that they try to sound more like his new protege Harold Faltermeyer (of "Axel F Theme" brain surgery). Unfortunately, instead of telling him to stick his nose up his sour Kraut ass and drown his lungs in smelly water like they should have, they took his advice and wrote the most odious, odiferous synth-driven "attitude" pop songs they could. This music is truly, inarguably BAD.

"But wait, Mark! I'm Freddy Votel, former drummer for the Cows, and I really like this album!"

Every once in a while, a good person will make a bad decision. Nevertheless, I support Mr. Votel's brave opinion, even if it does make me wonder if maybe my copy of Terminal Jive is some rare "Alternate Shitty Version" where all the songs have the same titles, yet don't have any good elements in them at all.

Like Chris DeBurgh's "Don't Pay The Ferryman," six of these eight songs are obvious, radio-audience-pandering "of their period" combinations of disco, synth pop and metal-lite. They've brought the guitars back, but only for "heavy" rock accenting of the embarrassing synth lines. Jeezy peezy, the synthesizer tones themselves are standard early '80s ugly Pointer Sisters crap! Why on Earth did Ron allow this to happen??? Is the album supposed to be geared towards 8-year-olds? This is IDIOT music! Since when did Sparks become panderers of any sort? Huh? At what point did Sparks become panhandlers of mini-shorts? I demand the truth! What happened in their lives that made Sparks become philanderers of Two Guys, A Girl And A Pizza Place co-producer Kenny Schwartz?

Maybe I wouldn't be "bitchin' in the kitchen" if Sparks had made any effort at all to include FUN in any of these songs, but NO! This is Sparks trying to be taken seriously. Just a couple of tepid non-smiling tough-pop dance guys singing a set of mediocre lyrics with none of the peppy zestiness that I demand from men nemed Ron.

Except "When I'm With You," a captivating (and funny!) song about a girl who almost makes Ron/Russell "feel normal." But that is the ONLY song on here that lives up to the name Sprska. The rest belongs on a Ronco compilation between Mtume's "Juicy Fruit" and a bag of vomit.

And yes, I understand that it may be physically challenging to weave a paper container of liquid/solid content into the shellac of a crisp, newborn record. But Ronco only hires members of Mensa, so I feel I've made the right decision (in the long) run.

What's that?

Oh, that's right - Nambla. I knew it ended in an "a"!

Reader Comments
Four decent songs : 4 stars.

Add your thoughts?

Whomp That Sucker – Oglio 1981
Rating = 8

I am a relieved man to hear that The Shit Album was just an anomoly, and that Sparks were still the same old silly men as always the whole time. For this appallingly good comeback CD, they picked up an L.A. band called Bates Motel to back them up, and I can only assume it was a wise decision because the album stinks to high heaven with childlike mirth and keyboard-driven glam/pop fun. They no longer sound desperate to be taken seriously -- or, in fact, even INTERESTED in being taken seriously. A few of the riffs are a little aged as applied in song form, but there's a nice warm Go-Gos/Devo electronic music feel to the whole thing and the "Great Fun Times" Pee Wee Herman feel gets even more endearing upon repeated listenings. Musically, the guitars are mostly around for rhythmic punch and solos (rather than to guide the song or play the main melody), but Russell's falsetto vocals are worn on his sleeve with inanity, Ron's organ tones are Straight Outta Barnum & Bailey, and in a fascinating artistic progression, they've adopted that "5000 people singing together, creating a big brick of unnerving sound" form of backup vocals so familiar to Sweet and Queen fans.

Yes. Keyboard-heavy upbeat, uptempo pop music with some magnificent melodies (the chorus to "Where's My Girl?," for example), some NON-melodies (the entire, lengthy verse of "Upstairs" is ONE chord!), some rich musical jokes (like a nauseating wah-wah bass BWOOOOOOOOMP! after each cry of "They call it THE WILLYS!" in a song called "The Willys") and a fine return to perceptive ironic lyricism. "Funny Face" is about a male model who is thrilled when he gets into a disfiguring accident because finally people will have to love him for who he IS instead of what he looks like, "Upstairs" is about Ron's brain, "I Married A Martian" sounds like a classic '50s sci-fi thriller until it becomes clear that our narrator is only upset because she's getting fat, "Suzie Safety" is about a woman who keeps saving her beau's life and health -- to the point where she's really starting to piss him off, "Don't Shoot Me" is a jaw-droppingly well-written piece about a hunter and his various prey, and "Wacky Women" for no clear reason has Russell talking about flexing his muscles several times.

I really want you, as a non-Sparks-familiar person, to understand what it is I like so much about Ron Mael's songwriting. It's not just his oddball juxtapositions and ideas -- it's also his stomach-bursting non-sequitors and bone-tickling way of completely changing his train of thought halfway through a song, giving up on its ostensible "point" and turning the narrator himself into a joke. As an example, I'm going to present an entire set of lyrics for you -- "Tips For Teens," the first track on this album. These lyrics are a perfect example of what I'm talking about. Please take a read and when you're finished, go back, read them again and try to imagine them being SUNG. In a SONG.

And to be fair, this was co-written by Ron and Russell.

I've got a snapshot of your Aunt Maureen
She's 90 and you're a teen
I'm trying to cheer you up
Don't be so mean, don't be so mean

Crack, bam, now you're looking good
Tip Top, now you're feeling good
Once more, here's your Aunt Maureen
Don't you feel good, don't you feel good?

Tips For Teens, Tips For Teens, the kind you don't see in magazines
Tips For Teens, Tips For Teens, the kind you don't see on T.V. screens
Tips For Teens, Tips For Teens
Wake up to music
And say you're too sick to go to work

Soon, you will lose all your zits
Tight sweaters no longer fit
Jetsetters will make their pitch
I told you so, I told you so


Don't eat that ice cream
Is it vanilla?
Give it to me

Don't eat that pastry
What's in the middle?
Give it to me

Don't eat that burger
Has it got mayonnaise?
Give it to me

Keep that mystique up
And wear a "D" cup
No matter what

Don't eat no curry
Before a very
Important date

Do I look so knowing and old and wise?
Maybe it's those Dacron ties
How come you keep asking me
For Tips For Teens, for Tips For Teens?

Crack, bam, now you're looking good
Tip Top, now you're feeling good
Once more, here's your Aunt Maureen
Don't you feel good, don't you feel good?


(This is Mark again). SEE?!????? WHO THE HELL WRITES LYRICS LIKE THAT?!?!?!??

One other important point I must make: You know how I said that this band annoys a lot of people? Well, they've never annoyed me. Even That Crappy Album doesn't "annoy" me; it just sucks. But now they've done it. This album darn near got a SEVEN on my Changeable Grading Scale because of only one song - a song so annoying, I'd rather bounce my penis up and down on a porcupine than sit through it even one more time in my life. I don't want to give away the title and ruin the surprise, but I'll give you a hint and tell you that the phrase "That's Not Nastassia!" is repeated in an excruciating, fork-scraping-against-teeth tone of voice about 500,000 times before the five-minute ear-burner dies and goes to Hell where it belongs.

Reader Comments
No, no : 6 stars, nothing more.
I was pleased to see Sparks back in a way wellshaped after the bloddless Terminal Jive in 81. Upstairs is great lyric- and synthswise. That`s not Nastassia is a sort of jazzpunk !!

Met Ron and Russell outside the Studio in Munich when they were recording the album in Munich summer 1980
Mark - Great review of WTS except for your displeasure with "Nastassia". What a great song. The vocals are a riot and you gotta love Ron's piano breaks. I say give it at least ten or twelve more listens!
The most underrated Sparks CD. Thanks for the Tips lyrics, one of my favorite songs of all time.

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Angst In My Pants – Repertoire 1982
Rating = 8

This album features the same band that appeared on Whomp That Fucker and, although it has a strangely muffled mix, it also includes tons of spastic, abnormal, bent keyboard tones and noises -- and it is absolutely FUN AS SHIT!!! You know how fun shit is when you get a bunch in your mouth and start chewing it and swirling it around in your saliva and

There's too much '80s reverb on the drums, but the siren-esque organ tones and loud guitars proffer some great melodies -- others are more standard, of course, but still FULL-To-BUSTIN' of fun synth tones. This band is not the heartfelt geniuses of insanity they once were, but at least they're a hell of a clownish electro-pop band. Anthemic choruses, cunning lyrics, surf-spy guitar lines, fast simple constructions, haywires noises, vocalistisms of tomfoolery (in the title track, Russell sounds just like Wire's Colin Newman!) and even some intercourse. Like "Instant Weight Loss" features a guitar as buzzy nagging fly, plus booming thunderstorm hits and sexy Hall & Oates Organ. GreTa tune! Ethereal odd regaal e sorta XTC one is olike the Cars, one is TV show theme-ish, one is Oingo Boingo meets Cheap Trick, one is a stupid funk song, one is a sad ballad, one is this, one is that, one is this, one is that. Getting to the point, I AM VERY VERY VERY VERY VERY FOND OF THIS ALBUM.

This is uptempo, fucking GREAT, fucked-up electronic pop music. You should LOVE it unless you hate such fare, in which case drop your pretenses -- I used to hate keyboard music too, but what about when Ron Mael is around pulling out the grossest, stupidest noises he can find? Doesn't that count as "rock"? They call their songs "Sextown USA" and "The Decline And Fall Of Me" -- and one of the most amazingly infectible songs on the album is sung by MICKEY MOUSE!!!! "My name is Mickey Mouse! To my right is Minnie Mouse! And we own a little place in Disneyland, California!" I love this album. You'd think they'd start sucking once they dumped all the five million influences, but this album is about as fun as an album can be. It's no wonder to me why people love this band so much - it used to be, because it was like "Sparks? Who the fuck is Sparks? Are you an asshole?" But the songwriting is so scholarly and well-intentioned -- and, in this case anyway (the last case for a while), they weren't aiming for big old radio success. There's a song about a cigarette. A song about a girl calling a guy "Fats" so he loses weight. A song about either a boner or diarrhea, depending on what "Angst In My Pants" is supposed to mean. I love you.

Sparks sound so friendly on this release, and on the previous release as well. They have humor, fun and melodies that -- as amateurish and repeatable as they seem on first listen -- you end up wanting to hear over and over and over again. And sing to yourself too!

This is the part of the review where I "name-check" the biggest Sparks fan in the world -- Mr. Larry Graves. He kept insisting that I give the Sparks a try, went so far as to mail me a Sparks tribute disc, and get this! I said, "Hey, can you send me a CDR of Plagiarism?" So the asshole ORDERED ME A COPY ON AMAZON. Then he told his friend in Crazy Country Land Away From U.S. to send me that early demo I reviewed earlier. Then he ORDERED ME A COPY of some weird Christian psych band. He's a great guy. A great, great guy. His wife passed away from cancer recently, and I can't imagine -- nor do I want to -- the pain he must be feeling. But he's hanging in there, with the help of his kids and his sense of humor. Five cheers for the strong, brave Larry Graves, whose personal philosophy is "to just treat every person with respect and remember that no one is perfect.." He also has a superbly witty web site at, so check that out if you're not adverse to Canadian humor. He's always been more than friendly to me, so if he tries to murder and rob you, that's because God Hates You.

Reader Comments (Brian Hyndman)
I was hoping you'd get around to reviewing these guys! 'Angst in my Pants' is one of the few '80s era synthesizer concoctions I can still listen to 'lo these many years later without cringing in embarrassment. It's a nice, bouncy collection of electropop showtunes that, like their creators, were never meant to be taken too seriously.
This was the last good Sparks album. I was into them from WONDER GIRL on. I heard "Sparks in Outer Space" and wondered where they went! I got off the train and walked back to the last station. I toured with them in the early 80's and it was fun. What great shows! Really consistent band. I'm glad I missed the crap that followed.
I'm OK.
Great album. Sherlock Holmes might just be my favourite Sparks song. The lyrics are awesome. "Dogs bark and he knows their breed.... oh baby hold me tight, just pretend I'm Sherlock Holmes" And then it kicks into the second verse and the sexy keybpoards/synths sound so fucking good. Hard to explain unless you were here, listening with me. And they save the best for the end: " Oh yeah, I can dance like Sherlock Holmes, I can sing like Sherlock Holmes, but I can't be sherlock holmes." Somehow I could almost imagine T-rex doing this song.

And hey, is it just me or does "The Decline And Fall Of Me" sound a helluva lot like The New Pornographers? What do you think?

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In Outer Space - Repertoire 1983
Rating = 6

Too straight. Ron is playing traditional tones and notes on his Roland JP-8, apparently trying to appeal to fans of the Go-Gos, the Human League and other exceptionally boring keyboard-dependent early-80s musical bands. The mix is far too slick and generic-sounding, and could easily have been written and performed by ANY sissyboy gay band of the period. And that IS a condemnation. I'm all for people feeling gay, acting queer and smoking fags, but Sparks is supposed to be intellectually childish, not middle-of-the-road obvious. Why the hell do you think they're called "Sparks" anyway?

(They're called Sparks because their first record label didn't like the name "Halfnelson")

And how in Sam Donaldson's Hill of His Own Shit That He Maintains In A Corner In The Rear of His Study are SIX people in this band? It sounds like one guy with a keyboard! Did the rest of the band just forget to turn on their amps? Christ! I've never BEEN so angry! Even that time the Pope broke into my home and ripped my condom off mid-coitus, I was more startled than mad. But this? This is grounds for frowns!

Having built up my complain-a-thon to sizable levels of presumption, I now want to clap in applause at the record's many (3) strengths: (one) its high energy, (two) about half of the synth lines which, as simple as they are, are as joyously catchable as hell, and (three) most importantly to me, the forking HILARIOUS lyrics in maestrowerks like "Dance Goddammit" ("It's the sound of today/Played so loud, you're in pain/I feel good, really great/As I talk to my feet/Dance Goddammit!"), "Popularity" ("What a night, we all drive into town/Where we'll park our cars, and meet the rest of our friends/At a place that's called, I forget what it's called/But it's really great, and all of our friends will be there"), "Cool Places" ("They let us in so I'm feelin' all right/I like to go where sometimes they refuse/Yeah, I remember last Saturday nite/But I'm feeling cooler now/And they could tell we're cooler now/It's obvious we're cooler now, cooler now, cool cool cool!"), "All You Ever Think About Is Sex" ("I'm still not recovered from Saturday's faux pas/When your father came home, saw us and dropped dead"), "I Wish I Looked A Little Better" ("I went to Balboa Island/And laid in the sun/I may be ugly as sin/But at least now I'm tan") and "Rockin' Girls" ("Oh, Rockin' Girls, let's go/You look a little slow/Oh, Rockin' Girls, let's go/You still look kinda slow/Oh, Rockin' Girls, let's go/You still look kinda slow/Oh, now you're movin' great/I think I'll take a break").

Some would call this album a sell-out, but I'm not some, or even one. I'm Mark Prindle, Death or Glory. And I know how hard it is to buy things like food and housing when you don't have any income. If the Maels were struggling financially at this point, it makes sense that they would try to appeal to younger people with disposable income. Early teens, that sort of person. This was a very synthesizer-heavy era, at any rate. EVERY band was bringing keyboards into their sound (except AC/DC), and I'm sure that suited lifelong keyboardist Ron Mael just fine. And as long as the lyrics are slapping my funny bone's ass as hardly as ever, who am I to complain?

Besides Mark Prindle, God and Wisdom, that is.

For that is who I am. Mark Prindle, Mayonnaise and Tonsil Stones.

Reader Comments (Bruce Lord)
First off, I'm totally glad you finally got around to going through the Sparks discography. I remember you slagging them off while first proposing "Who's Next?" and I couldn't believe it; they seem like a band tailor-made for this sort of discussion.

Anyway, I've always viewed "In Outer Space" as the dark flip-side of the drop-yer-drawers-n-party "Angst In My Pants". A whole bunch of the songs here seem to be about the vapid nature underlying the self-indulgent 80s party aesthetic (which of course the Maels saw coming a trillion miles away). "Sextown USA" becomes "All You Every Think About Is Sex". The former revels in the pure pleasure of an all out fuckathon, while the latter provides the realisation that there's no substance or meaning beneath the fucking:

"In a world of lovers, we don't love each other much

Fact is, we're too busy to love each other much"

Then you've got the worn-out former playboys of "Rockin' Girls" (four years after "Terminal Jive", our guy can't keep up with those "Young Girls" anymore) and "Dance Godammit":

"I get scared

When I'm alone

Ah, don't leave me

All alone

Wanna dance

Wanna dance

Wanna dance?"

C'mon, that's some pain. We're rushing to the clubs to keep from looking in the mirror. Think "American Psycho". But, y'know, without chainsaws and hookers.

Getting around to my point of contention with the review, the restrained, lite-pop instrumentation that you commented on (which I'd love in any case, since I'm a bitch for early minimal synths) accentuates all this ennui. The lyrics of "Popularity" could be played for laughs and fun if they were done with the full-on rocktasticness of "Propaganda", but the metronome beat and tinkle-synth (ooh, how naughty!) make us realise just how sad the narrator's inability to form relationships based on anything other than polite company is. The little two-note question that chimes in just after Russell croons "populariteeeey" sounds plaintive, almost mournful (by the time the "Plagiarism" version of the song rolls around everyone's hepped up on E and too manic to realise they're shallow idiots). The slow repetition of "Dance Godammit" and its limping synth-line let us visualise our aging narrator twisting on the dancefloor by himself, maybe five BPM behind the song, with no one to buy a gin and tonic.

...Or maybe I've just drunk too much coffee. In conclusion, it's got a good beat and you can dance to it. (Peter Elsen)
Still not a bad album:” I Wished I LooKed A Little Better is fun” and works in my eyes as a sort of „reduced to the basics“ Rock`n Roll with an electronic approach. I do like the album, most of the tracks are very consistent…

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Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat – Oglio 1984
Rating = 4

Well, he's crawling down the corridor on his hands and knees. Old Charlie stole the handle -- and the train, it won't stop going! NO WAY TO SLOW DOWN!!!!

I think we're all in agreeance that the next few Sparks albums are pretty ass-wack. Britney's over here, and she's wif' me. The Olsen Twins ain't arguin'. Even that fuckin 'guy whatsisname from Puddle of Mudd is wif' me on this one, shit. Kid Rock is hangin' ball witcha ball a dingadang witchy witchy. Fuck all ya'all! Outkast got my back on dis too, beeeyotch. Fuck a duck.

As every music critic in the entire world has written about a Sparks album they don't like, "No sparks fly on this one." By this point, Sparks had given up on any semblance of street credibility, turning over hogside to little kids wearing colorful clothes and Swatch watches all the way up their arm. Maybe rollerskating if kids still did that in '84. Not sure on that one. The only thing I remember from that year is having to go in that room where they put the cage with the rats in it over my head. Man, that was a sack o' SHIT! You with me? Who's with me? But this is the mild mild new world of Sparks. SHIT Sparks? More like SPORKS (as in TACO BELL -- as in MANUFACTURED CORPORATE HORSEWASTE), and I would know - oh, or rather (and I would know because I used to work there).

If we're all selling cars for a living, do we have to make cars that people enjoy and will like? Yes, I suppose we do. And if people happen to be buying godawful cars made out of plastic without an ounce of creativity this year, do we have to play along? If we don't want to lose our recording contract, then yes we do. We're getting older now and - GODDAMMIT I RUINED MY ANALOGY! Change that to " lose our CAR SELLING CONTRACT..." This album is so gutless. The synths are billions of decibels too loud and more treblier than an airplane engine blowing "Hello" at you through the window. Annoyingly bright and BRAPPY! No bass for miles, '80s shit production -- fake music. Dull. Drums (fake? Or just boring?) too loud. Lyrics only funny in maybe one song. Is Ron in love? Why is he writing serious love songs? And how is it that he's playing three different keyboards (Roland JP-8, Yamaha DX-7, Fairlight), yet the album sounds no different than the last one, when he played only one of the above? Russell doesn't use his falsetto (his normal, lower voice is kinda ho-hum humdrum wishy-washy pablum - not awful, but not nearly as funny as his falsetto). I hate this album! I hate this entire ERA of poorly produced half-written music and how it gutted so many previously talented artists. The Rolling Stones' Dirty Work? Robert Plant's Shaken 'N' Stirred? The Beach Boys' Still Cruisin'? What is with all this impossibly tinny keyboard hiss? What could possibly have been considered the appeal? It just sounds HORRIBLE! BRAPP! BRIZZ! FRAPP! THIS was state-of-the-art electronic pop music? It sounds like a robot with intestinal gas!

On the uplifting moral side, "Pretending To Be Drunk," "Progress" and "Everybody Move" are catchably danceyish (with borderline funny lyrics), and "A Song That Sings Itself" isn't the worst ballad ever written. But damn this kind of music SUCKS SMELLY BALLHOLE!

Reader Comments

James A. Gardner
Mark, in your review, you write: "As every music critic in the entire world has written about a Sparks album they don't like, "No sparks fly on this one.""

In the interest of accuracy, I believe I said something more like "no sparks are struck," which is more in keeping with the prissy, old school mar'm English teacher voice that seems to characterize my "writing" ... and along those same lines, shouldn't this album title be "Pulling Out Rabbits From a Hat" to be grammatically correct?

Of course, to be an accurate representation of the content, the title should've been "Pulling Songs Out of Our Ass" (get it, rabbit/ass?) because their Muse done hit the snooze button this time out. This record is such a enervated slice of inertia ... what happened to that hyperactive combo that turned out Kimono My House and Propaganda and Indiscreet, back-to-back, one of the best success streaks of any 70's band (in my limited knowledge of popular music and bands and the 1970's)?

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Music That You Can Dance To – Curb 1986
Rating = 3

Well I hope so, because you sure can't LISTEN to it! HA HEH!!

Yeah, more like Music You Can PRANCE To! H ahahaha!! HEE!!! (YOU'RE GAY)

It's unconscionable for you to expect me to spend more than three minutes discussing an album this moribund, so let's cut to the chafe: They sound like Depeche Mode now. More "modern" synth tones (too trebly), loud obnoxious HONKING! (orchestral?) noises. There don't appear to be any real instruments on here at all - I have a feeling even the synthesizers are fake - just useless machines emitting random irritating blasts of fake horn noise every few seconds. Plus, you can honestly only dance to maybe three of the songs! The rest are either too slow or unpleasantly clumpity-dumpity. Not only that, but the patented in Washington DC Mael dry wit is NOWHERE to be found, in its stead leaving a - oh shit man, I learned a new word at work today. Dig this, if I can remember it. It was a word -- AH! I REMEMBER! "ANCILLARY!" This album is full of half-hearted, tuneless fake drums and synthetic tinny noise, and as an ANCILLARY reason not to buy it, there aren't any jokes on it!

One of the songs rules though. "Rosebud" is a horrifyingly realistic portrait of a young man trying to comfort his lover (and himself) as she lies dying after an auto accident. Even burdened by long-past-dated production, that is one MONSTER of a song. But the rest of the album is just a bunch of funk synth bass James Bond industrial trudge ugly stupid terrible Stevie Wonder two chord spoken vocals CRAP! (but not all in the same song)

There are actually two versions of this album, for some reason. One version features a passable "lost love" song called "Change" -- the version I bought unfortunately does NOT. Instead, it features this stupendously shitty Caribbean-dance song from the soundtrack of Fright Night. So be sure and buy both copies -- that way, it'll get a 6!

But honesty is important. So let me explain something here. This is important, because honesty is important, and to be honest, I have to be important. FACT: This is simply not my type of music. I didn't like '80s dance music in the '80s -- I sure as shitshined catalog don't want to hear it in '02 or '07 or whatever the hell it is now, it's all the same to me. (If you ask me, there's "Before Derek And The Dominos' Layla And Assorted Other Love Songs changed the face of music" and "After Derek And The Dominos' Layla And Assorted Other Love Songs altered the course of history" - everything else is just calendar makers selling ads, man) So my point is that Sparks' muse has taken them into a style of music that I personally find more revolting than my cocks. If you're into late-period Duran Duran and that really lousy Killing Joke album, you might be all over this. Hell, Freddy Votel from The Cows likes it! And he was in the COWS!

(Did the Cows know they were hiring a guy with such shitty musical tastes?) But no, I'm kidding you! I'm kidding EVERYBODY! HA ha! We all have to laugh -- otherwise The Taliban has won!

No offense to myself, but it's fuckin' HARD to write a review every single day. I know it seems easy as pi to the 400th integer, but not when there are no breaks and you KNOW there are no breaks and you ran out of jokes six years ago. NO WAIT! I made up a joke tonight! Check this out. What do you get when a toad takes a shit?


No wait, that wasn't it. Oh now I remember: Why did the calf cross the road?

To get to the udder side!

I know, but they told me if I don't work blue, I'll never be as big as Howie Mandel.

Reader Comments
I love this album, although I could live w/out Let's Get Funky. In many ways I think it forshadows the grand arrangements and sonic adventure of Lil' Beethoven and Hello Young Lovers. I can understand that some people may not like the dated '80s production but I personally have no problem w/ it. The title track, Rosebud, The Scene, Change and Modesty Plays are all classics.

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Interior Design – Thunderbolt 1988
Rating = 4

One time long ago when I was quite green, I went to Best Friend Park's swimming pool with my family of three others. On this inauspicious afternoon, I conquered my dishonorable fear of pain and jumped off of the high dive for the very first time. Like a stick being plunged headlong into dirt, I advanced to the end of the board, took a tiny hop and went straight down, making nary a splash upon entering the gulf stream of chlorinated Water20. But I felt so DARING! So PROUD! Like a young Indian WARRIOR getting an A on his mathematics test at a local school! So I continued to get in the line (like so many other union employees throughout the sordid history of Amerikan labor), walk across that highly-placed board of sulphur and careen kerploppity into the deep end of life. I must have gone sixty-gleventy times! Although I found such exultation an ebullient emotion to behold, something negative in tone was occurring in a very natural yet smelly part of my being. In scientific terms, I had to poop. But the fun I was having! I couldn't stop having fun to poop! Could I? What would God say? Finally, I'd waited as long as my sphincter would allow and I ran on my little tiny skin-covered hooves into the men's bathroom and into a stall, where I was horrified to discover a knot in my bathing suit string! 'Oh no!' I cried in vain, for as I struggled and stammered with all my girth, a huge festering sludgebomb of bacteria and fully digested food matter came gushing out of an unfortunate hole in my body, covering my panties, legs, ass, cock and feet in soft-serve turd cream.

I like to think this is exactly what happened when Sparks went into the studio to record Interior Design. Hot off the success of their multiplatinum "Let's Get Funky" maxi-single, they were probably having a good old time carousing around, drinking their marijuana and courting society ladies high and fair. But when the time was nigh and the album was due to the record company, they suddenly found a knot in their b rains and KERSPLATCH! Now we're all covered in Interior Design.

My wife says it sounds like an Aerobics dance tape by somebody who is trying and failing to be George Michael. I say it sounds like the most stagnant businesslike keyboard dance pop moments of the last few Sparks albums aggregated under one roof and condensed into a near-valueless hunk of dusty coal. I can honestly say I enjoy "The Toughest Girl In Town" - the boomeranging little up-down notes please my ears in reminder of past smilestones like "Popularity" and "Beat The Clock." And something about the funereal chorus of "A Walk Down Memory Lane" really brings home the song's theme of commercial failure.

The rest of the album can lick it though. These up-to-the-minute 1988 synths STILL sound like they were made in 1982, and the melodramatic, threadbare songwriting is more appropriate for soap opera incidental music than for an album by the Former Lee Accomplished Sparkses. Skip it, don't buy it, and when you're finished, don't buy it again.


Reader Comments (David Torres)
Not to blow smoke up your posterior or anything BUT....

That was one of the greatest reviews I have ever read from you. I don't know shit about Sparks but I might try and listen to some of their 70's output......nonetheless..........that review - you needing to take a dump at the pool - jesus, that probably happened to me 100 times when I was that age.....PRICELESS SHIT. Well Done, Prindle

BTW - I'm very close to picking up a Polvo CD after reading that page. Thanks man. Thanks for your work.
You're absolutely RIGHT : another great piece of shit.This one belongs to the trash can ( along with Big beat).

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Gratuitous Sax And Senseless Violins – Logic 1994
Rating = 6

So I'm at Abu Ghraib jumping on piles of naked Iraqis and nailing Lynndie The Mongoloid when suddenly I come to a startling revelation: there's NOTHING I like better than Gratuitous Sex And Senseless Violence!

Unfortunately there are lots of things I like better than Gratuitous Sax And Senseless Violins. Because the book I was reading today used the phrase "to be sure" about a hundred dozen times, I'm going to start the next sentence with it. To be sure, it's the least shameful and most competent Sparks release to come flaming 'round the pike in over a decade, but there's no lying around the fact that I'm not exactly "Mr. Techno." And this album IS Mr. Techno (The Album). Thankfully for those of us with acute hearing, Ron has traded in his Radio Shack Tinkleboards for a bunch of Cool House Dance Rave Bass Rhythm Express 2K Sexxxx Machines -- which makes this a heck of a lot easier to enjoy than the last three albums. But that doesn't alter the unfortunate reality that I am a fan of smart rock and catchy melody, neither of which Sparks is particularly aiming for at this point in their car's eer. They may do a perfectly fine job with minor-key trance vibe clickle-clackle wub-wub-wub, but a little of it goes a longity way, especially considering how repetitive all the songs are. The emotionally defeatist "When Do I Get To Sing 'My Way'?" is the first instant classic they've recorded in years, and the incongruence of the gigglable lyrics of "I Thought I Told You To Wait In The Car" and its overimportant orchestral arrangement is enough to make a grown man smile, but other than those two and a bizarre tribute to Gone With The Wind, this might as well be a Moby album. Or The Prodigy. And maybe I'm alone here, but I don't find Future Sound of London or Orbital all that interesting. Don't yell at me -- certainly Underworld and The Orb have their place in today's drug culture, but not on my Sparks album! Christ, they were 44 4ucking years old when they recorded this! What - did they think that two musical jokes and 9 rewrites of Madonna's "Vogue" were gonna get them "laid"? Sure -- maybe in HAWAII!!!! ("lei'd") Oh yeah -- maybe at a STYX CONCERT!!! ("Lady") Yeah, I bet -- perhaps while eating POTATO CHIPS!!!! ("Lay'd").

Also, there are too many spoken word parts. I didn't lug my 24-pound penis all the way to the record store and back to listen to Russell Mael TALK. If I wanted to hear an asshole talk, I'd just FART ON PRESIDENT REAGAN, thanks!

Not that Russell Mael is an asshole necessarily. I've never heard that accusation pointed at him at any rate. I was just making conversation. Look, what I'm trying to illustrate with my "Paint of Sentences" is that Sparks finally sound like a band that even crystal meth club kids could enjoy as a DJ saves their life. However, I've yet to be invited to join this particular target demographic even though I own every Jethro Tull album, so I can't feel the same artificially enhanced chemical pleasure as those soon-to-be-prostitutes-and-corpses. I can enjoy GSASV as a pretty good attempt to hop on the train of a pre-existing musical format, and I applaud them for finally getting out of that rut of poor songwriting they were stuck in, but I'll likely never listen to this record again (aside from the three great songs I mentioned, and maybe the ambient pianoey echoer "Tsui Hark," which features guest vocals Tsui Hark).

In summation: Did the company who thought up the name "Cheese Nips" intend for me to get a zipper-busting boner every time I see them at the grocery store?

And what about prison? Are they paying me for that?

Reader Comments
No... 8 stars, nothing less.No,no,no...Don't say a word : you're wrong and you know it.Sparks are great again with this one.

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Plagiarism - Oglio 1997
Rating = 9

So I was bombing this Iraqi wedding the other day, masturbating out of my helicopter onto all the dead children, when I suddenly reached a climactic exaggeration: There's nothing I like better than to Playwithgism!

Curiously, I feel the same way about Plagiarism. Sparks had a bright idea in 1997 -- they decided to become brothers. After they did that, they decided that, rather than compiling a greatest hits album or coordinating a tribute album, they would completely re-record lots of songs from their back catalog. Sometimes they'd invite over some friends to play with them (Faith No More, Erasure, that guy from the Communards); other times, they'd do no such thing. The result? Violins, violins, violins! Also, some rock. And synthesizers. And a banjo during "Change." And an acoustic guitar in "Funny Face"! But violins violins violins (or a synthesized violin, violin, violin) as well! The '80s relics have been given new blood (you could even play "Popularity" and "Funny Face" out of your car window without getting beaten up and called "assface" now!), the '70s classics have been turned into LITERAL classics (as in "orchestral classical music"), and "When Do I Get To Sing 'My Way'" sounds suspiciously not a whole lot different than it sounded three years earlier.

In general, I'm not all for re-recording old songs. The Dwarves' How To Win Friends And Influence People doesn't expand on the songs one bit (especially the Sparks' songs, since they are hardly represented on it at all, aside from the word "tits"), Agent Orange and Dee Dee Ramone's Old Crap We're Re-recording didn't hit home runs out of the ball game, and The Guess Who's "Greatest Hits Live" featuring one original member (the bass player, I think) was FUCKING INCREDIBLE!!!! but that was the exception to the rule. Sparks have gone about it in a much smarter, intelligent and good way -- they've arranged their old songs in manners so opposed to the original versions that they don't compete with them. For example, your favorite old Sparks song may be "Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat" (if you have the worst musical taste in the universe), but that doesn't mean you're going to be disappointed by this NEW version -- instead of shrinky dink Casio tink-tones, it's driven by Apocalyptica-style cellos! Same goes for "Angst In My Pants," a song whose original cold flu vocals and monophonic synth voooooooom were (I felt) pretty much unbeatable. Not Sew! Now they've added a glammatically correct GUITAR RIFF to it and it's even DIFFERENTER! (yet GOOD!) The joke snippet "Propaganda" is now 2 1/2 minutes! Others.

A few minor complaints, to round off the evening so we can all go home and build a fire extinguisher. Special guests or no special guests, they didn't need to give us TWO new versions each of "This Town Ain't Big," "Something For The Girl" and "The No. 1 Song." Limited space on a CD or no limited space on a CD, they still should have included reworked material from the WRONGLY IGNORED Sparks, Woofer/Tweeter, Indiscreet, Big Beat and Introducing. And tennis elbow or no elbow at all, "When I'm With You" is too fast, "Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth" too slow, "Change" too underwritten and "Big Brass Ring" too -- what the hell is "Big Brass Ring"? What -- you mean like the one around my ASSHOLE??!?!!!?!?!

I wish I could put my finger on exactly when I became so belligerent to songwriters. Do you think it could stem from the year I freelanced as Jim Steinman's bedpan?

Reader Comments (Dan Watkins)
Alrighty, after reading Mark's glowing review for this album, I decided to order me up a copy from Amazon. My reaction was not nearly as enthusiastic as Mark's. It's a neat idea, but I think the execution could have been a lot better. Some of these remakes are a lot of fun, especially the ones with all the string arrangements. But what's with all these annoying dance beats? Too many of these songs sound like something I'd hear in the Limited while watching my girlfriend shop for clothes or something. Maybe it's that album cover's fault. It probably is. On the plus side, about half of the CD is really good. "Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat" is actually listenable! "This Town," "Funny Face," "Change," "Something For The Girl With Everything," "No. 1 Song In Heaven" (the orchestral one), and "Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth are great. Oh yeah, and it's neat that Faith No More collaborated with these guys. As a whole though, I wasn't all that impressed. I'd give it a 6.
I'm always fair : Dan is wrong and you're right.

Add your thoughts?

A Cute Candidate EP - Lift-Off Productions 1999
Rating = 7

Many times when we're adults, we reminisce about our fondest childhood memories, like that swimming pool incident I shared with you in the Interior Design review (also featured in Reader's Digest, June 1976). Another thing I did once was get in trouble in the first grade for peeing in the sink. It was also great those two times I somehow let the baseball slip right over my glove and smash my nose in the face, rendering me incapable of breathing freely through my nose to this very day! But none of these hair-wasting memories, including the time I got stung on the lip by a spider and my whole face inflated like an impossibly attractive young balloon, compares to the time I read a letter from Julie Redman (Oriental, adopted) to Kathy Feeney (deceased). I also used to pee in my pants whenever I laughed too hard. But I don't think I laughed at this particular letter - I just smiled knowingly as Julie discussed all the cute guys at her school through repeated usage of the misspelling "cut." I assure you that she wasn't talking about their manly chests or 6-packs: she meant "cute" and spelled it "cut." Has anyone in the world (the United States) ever so boldly expressed their ignorance, stupidity and poor spelling as this young girl did that time about 25 years ago? According to the dictionary, the answer to that question is a resounding, "Get your hand off my ass." And therein lies the danger of getting "dictionary" confused with "stewardess."

It's not hard to gather which jig I'm pointing at, but if you need enlightening, check this, Jack: A Cute Candidate is nine minutes of instrumental synth/string music that Sparks (Ron, I'd imagine) drafted for a short animation/live-action hybrid film about a cow running for president. Four of the songs sound like post-70s Residents (bleak trembling underworld rumbles and unnervingly nervy minor-key note twists) and the fifth is a stoic "hoedown old-timey western saloon" version of "This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us," a song originally recorded by legendary American hitmakers Sparx. It gets a 7 out of 10 because it's too short to get boring. If it had even TWO more songs on it, it would likely get a 6. But then it would stay a 6 for quite some time -- up until 18 songs, when the score would be reduced to a 5. This is assuming that the songs maintain their quality and brief length. Believe me, if suddenly they started tacking on five-minute dance songs, the grade would drop a lot more quickly. In fact, I could easily see it dropping all the way down to a TWO if they added on a mere 10 songs like that. I mean, could you blame me? That would be a completely shitty 59-minute CD!

I don't even like math; I just can't stop myself from fiddlefucking around with it sometimes. Ah, the tyranny of the left brain!

You know what? In the interest of being an individual who will never bow down to the system and its media bias, I've decided that I support the war but I don't support our troops. The bombs, slaughter and mistreatment of civilians? Love it! Economically disenfranchised young people risking their lives for Bush's oil interests? Fuck those jerks.

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Balls – Oglio 2000
Rating = 8

Because you won't stop asking, here are all the names we call my dog:

- Henry
- Henry The Dog
- Hen
- Hen Ben
- Hen Ben Ben Ben Ben
- Henry Benjamin Aske-Prindle
- Henjamin Benry
- Henman
- The Henmaster
- The H-Man
- The H-Dog
- Mr. Good
- That Good Boy (as in "Who's That Good Boy? It's YOU! It's YOU!)
- My Special Guy
- Hilarious comedian Henny Tongueman
- My Friend
- Mr. Fuzzy
- Mr. Sniffy (as in "Whatcha sniffin', Mr. Sniffy?")
- Goofy Guy
- Shit Eater (when he eats human defecation in Central Park)
- Fishbird
- Mr. Special
- Mr. Panty (when he's panting)
- Young Man
- Animal Boy
- Tiny Little Guy
- Drooly (as in "Quit drooling, Mr. Drooly!)
- Ya Freak (as in "What are you doing, Ya Freak?)
- Sir Sniffs-a-Lot
- Mr. Whiskers
- Magellan (as in "Whatcha smellin', Magellan?")

Now that that's out of the way, let's take a look at my Balls. I knew within seconds that I was going to enjoy this album more than Senseless Saxophones. Yes, "Balls" is another dance song based on the latest electronic technology you can purchase in a Disc Jockey store, but unlike the Pet Shop Boys dance of the last record, it is a pounding, riveting hella dance-banger synthaerobic early-Meat-Beat-Manifesto-style headshaking workout with a monstrous beat, repetitive bubble-busting woozy noises and even an electric guitar! As the disc continues, the songs turn to more traditional modern dance and r'n'b sounds, but full of beautiful orchestrationz, pianoz, guitarz and -- most noticably, unexpectedly and pleasingly -- stingingly brain-attaching vocal melodiez backing up the House beetz. In other words, while Sax sounded like the long-obsolete Maels trying to catch up with the kids by mimicking their approach, Balls is a true Sparks original. Having proven their middle-aged might with what was generally considered to be a major comeback, the Maels now feel comfortable filling their modrern dance beats with the thoughtful arrangements of Indiscreet and creative noises of Angst In My Pants.

Actually, to be honest, some of the slower numbers do sound like background music for today's popular cool rap artists, but with an important difference: actual vocal melodies, instead of a guy talking and making hand gestures for five minutes. Let's take "How To Get Your Ass Kicked," for example. In the wrong hands, it could easily have become a smoove boring R'n'B ballad; in the right hands, it has become a hysterical primer in bad form ("Driving home/Bikes in chrome/Cut you off/And you flip them off/And they take their turns/Many turns -- And that's how to get your ass kicked.").

Oops! I should stress though that not ALL of the lyrics are "jokey" and "humorous" -- I read somewhere that Ron eventually got sick of being treated like a clown, so that might be why -- but they're almost all really askew or askance (the constant inappropriate use of the word "fucking" in the closing love ballad, for example) and dude oh my GOD dude, the song "The Calm Before The Storm" is the most prescient set of lyrics I have ever heard in my or your lives. This record came out in the year 2000, correct? Yes, it is. A full year before September 11th, 2001. So how to take commentary like this? "Everybody's flight has been postponed/The loudest sound's a dial tone/It's the calm before the storm/Something big is coming soon/Something that will change your tune/It's the calm before the storm/False sense of security, shown to be a forgery/Something's about to break, but it isn't clear/Is it something we should cheer?/Is it something we should fear?" When my eyes spied these words on the TV screen, my mouth gaped open, and my gap mouthed closed!

The bottom line is that this bodes quite well for the future. There might be more slow songs on here than on the last one, but still -- eleven singalongs! "The Bullet Train - The Bullet Train - The Bullet Train, Yeah! The Bullet Train - The Bullet Train - The Bullet Train, Yeah!" Did you see me through the window with my head dancing while that song was playing? I know it looked like my head was sawed off at the end, but if you'd checked the little clock at the bottom of your window, you would have seen that a full ELEVEN HOURS passed between the time the "Iraqis" (CIA) shoved me to the floor and the time they cut my head off. Not to mention the facts that (a) I had last been seen in U.S. custody, (b) I was still wearing a U.S. prison uniform when the five fat guys stood behind me flipping two sheets of paper back and forth (supposedly "reading" from it) and (c) NO BLOOD AT ALL streamed out of either my head or neck when the head fatty sawed my head off and held it up. What does all this mean? It means that the CIA kidnapped me, drugged me to death, then cut my head off on camera, blaming the act on Iraqi militants so that the international community would forget about our Abu Ghraib torture. This is a proven, irrefutable fact. I know because I saw Dick Cheney's tattoo on the guy with the knife.

How am I supposed to end this review without a gross pun? Is it even possible to discuss an album called Balls without making a gross pun? No matter what I say -- even something as benign as "I like Balls" -- everybody will still assume that I'm referring to the way a woman's breasts resemble a pair of soccer "balls." Christ, why didn't they just go the full monty and call it Little Man Pulling Out an Umbrella or Let's Play 'Hangman'?

Reader Comments
Mmmmmh, ..., you're right.

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Balls But No Tits – Bootleg 2000
Rating = 6

I just thought of a fantastic snide remark I should have made in my Interior Design review. I've already submitted that review to the publisher and deleted it from my hard drive though, so I'll make the comment here, retrograde-style:

Interior Design? More like InFERior DeCLINE, if you ask me!

HA! MARK ONE DOWN FOR OL' PRIND!!!! YEEEAAAAAH!!!! WHOOOOOOOOOO!!!! (*accepts gold medal for kayaking*)

This "cleverly" entitled double-CD live bootleg (see, it contains a performance of the song "Balls," but no performance of the song "Tits," hence "Balls But No Tits" -- heh heh, can you imagine a human being with balls but no tits? That'd be fuckin' hilarious!! HHAHAHAAHAH!!! You could call 'em "No-Tits!" -- or better yet, "Bally!" And we could throw dog doo at them and kick them in the ass! Then we could fill a squirtgun with nitric acid and shoot 'em in the balls!!! -- but not the tits, because they wouldn't have any!!! HA AHHAHAH!!!!) is the sort of thing you might find down at your local bootleg store for $40, tax and tip. But don't be suede! (swayed) The crowd is louder than the band, the drums are louder than the music, and it sounds like somebody in the back row of a gymnasium recorded the show on a tape recorder hidden in his mouth. If you nevertheless can't resist the sensation, I'll give you a few quick facts to purchase your influencing decision.

FACT: This show was performed at Shephards Bush Empire on November 27, 1999 -- BEFORE Balls hit chins and stores worldwide. ADDITIONAL FACTS: It's just Ron, Russell and a drummer. Their set consists of six Balls tracks, three Kimono, two each from Number One In Heaven, Woofer/Tweeter (!) and Gratuitous, and one from Angst. In more words, they completely ignore TEN of their albums. The show also includes two playings of a sweet pre-recorded song called "Sparks Concert," as well as two apparently hilarious visual skits by Ron ("Waiting For Godot" with Rex the Wonder Dog and "Baby Levitation") that don't quite make the transatlantic flight to audio disc. Not that the songs DO. The recording is so muffled and damp, it renders even the best tunes rotten. The good thing is though, if you're looking for a silver lining in this cloud of poor recording, you finally get to hear "This Town Ain't Big Enough" without a rock guitar blasting over the chilling bridge every go-round. Also it's nice to hear the band members themselves acknowledge that not all their albums are Hot Shit, as Russell announces, "We know it's hard to be a Sparks fan because the releases are somewhat sporadic and.... ERRATIC...."

Also, some male audience member declares himself a complete loser about halfway through disc one when he shouts, "WE LOVE YOU, RUSSELL!"

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Lil' Beethoven – Palm Pictures 2002
Rating = 9

I'd might as well begin my Little Beethoven review by addressing the most common complaint I've heard about the album -- YES, it's repetitive. But that's kinda the POINT. The heartbeat rhythms of the simplistic (but penetrating) mega-multitracked vocal hooks, layered on top and against each other and set to a backdrop of stirring, dramatic orchestral classical music, is a brilliant artistic approach in which the vocals take on the role normally played by drums -- so successfully, in fact, that it's damn near impossible to NOT dance during songs like "The Rhythm Thief" and "How Do I Get To Carnegie Hall?" -- songs that have NO DRUMS. Maybe a bombastic kettle drum bwomp accent here and there, but no driving rhythm of any sort -- except in the vocals! And sure, in the violin and piano lines too. Sure, why not. But the VOCALS, man!

Only one of the songs is honestly *funny*, but the production, the layering, the unexpected vocal echos and chimes, the five billion instruments popping in and out of the mix during every song render that complaint uncomplainable. This is an album that Brian Wilson would have shot himself in the head to have created -- especially the ass-fuckingly gorgeous "I Married Myself," a Pet Sounds outtake if ever one other than "Hang On To Your Ego" was written. Not only is this the most memorable and moving classical music that Ron Mael has ever composed, but just when you think you've got the whole thing pegged and sorted (maybe a little surprised by the McCartney-worthy slowly-building-to-an-eruption pop classic "My Baby's Taking Me Home," but basically pegged and sorted), you run into a goddamned HEAVY METAL SONG! A TRUDGING, EERIE, NEUROSIS-STYLE, DARK, EVIL MONSTER of a track called "Ugly Guys With Beautiful Girls" -- not only their heaviest track ever, but pretty much their first guitar-based rock song since 1976! Then it's out and away with the gut-busting Vaudeville put-down "Suburban Homeboy" ("I am a suburban homeboy with a suburban 'ho right by my side/I am a suburban homeboy and I say 'yo dog' to my pool cleaning guy").

Jesus christ. This album is so fucking great, I feel like listening to it every single minute of the day. Should I give it a 10? If I could give out two 10's, I'd give this a 10. Consider this a 10. It's so brainy! So well-composed and put together! So dark and driving! So full of musical and instrumental ideas! And so REPETITIVE! And it's not just me who thinks so. Big fancy magazines have called it "A Masterpiece of Pop Art," "A Self-Contained Masterpiece" and "Gilbert & Sullivan on Qualuudes." Let me, a small unfancy web site guy, add one more soundbyte to that list: "This Is Why Mike Patton Likes Sparks So Much." How can this be the same band that did Interior Design?! Were they on Coca-Cola during the '80s or someass shit?

Reader Comments (John McFerrin)
Yes. Yes. Yes. You absolutely nailed it. It IS repetitive, but it ends up largely as orchestral techno music, with the vocals knocking the groove forward. Truth be told, there's a couple of songs on here I'm not too big on - I end up getting sleepy during I Married Myself, despite how pretty it is, and Your Call is Very Important To Us goes a little too long even for my patience with this album.

But the rest, holy cow. Not only is it a sonic masterpiece, it's got all these little bits of subtly piercing emotion busting through from time to time. Just think of that sad, plaintive, "Still, there's no sign of you" in Carnegie Hall!! The sarcastic condemnation of so many modern 'musicians' with "They've gone and done what we'll never do" in What are All These Bands So Angry About?!! The way that, despite having so few words, My Baby's Taking Me Home turns into a massive ritual of joy, much like the coda to Hey Jude does! The TOTAL bitterness of Ugly Guys with Beautiful Girls!

And yet it has something as funny as Suburban Homeboy to cap it all off. Go figure.

A 9, period. (Larry Graves)
First of all, I would like to thank Mark "Asshole" Prindle for the Sparks reviews. I laughed. I cried. I puked. Just like all his other reviews except for The Partridge Family's "Shopping Bag" album. It was also NEAT to see he also reviewed The Undertones, another very fine band from Japan. I sort of agree with all of the reviews except that the mid-period Sparks (between 1980 and 2000...) I seem to like "a bit" more than Mark does, possibly because I have more intelligence and don't fucking swear.

I think Mark has finally realized two very important things from doing the Sparks reviews .
1. Sparks are one of the best bands in the world
2. He owes me big time for buying him that Plagiarism cd. (Nathan)
Well I must admit that when I originally read George Starostin's reviews and saw him frothing over this band I was a bit skeptical, but then I saw that Mark loved them too, and I thought "hey, these guys might be pretty good." And they are! REALLY good! If Television's Marquee Moon is the greatest album you've never heard of, then Sparks are probably the greatest band you've never heard of. Kimono My House is such a great album...and this one ain't no slouch either! Oh, a little tip for anybody who wants to get this album cheap: if you look up Sparks on and click any of their albums, they have a free download of "Rhythm Thief." Then, go to to download iTunes for free, and you can download the rest of the songs for exactly $7.92. SCORE! I love getting cheap things!!!!
I completely missed the boat with Sparks. I could only manage about a minute of each song, and only "Ugly Guys w/ Beautiful Girls" was mildly appealling. I like some classical music and I'm open minded to a lot of different music, but I just don't get this. "Interesting" melodies, tempo changes, etc, etc, still doesn't make it sound good to me. My only defense of this album are the lyrics, which are great. I really wish I could like Sparks from all that I've read, but I'm completely let down. What am I missing? (Dan Watkins)
Terrific! They finally dumped the dance drum machines and came up with an interesting new sound. I had pretty given up on these guys to do anything I'd fully enjoy after their nose-dive in the mid-80s, but wow, what a pleasant surprise! "I Married Myself" is now one of my top 10 Sparks songs. Oh, and to praise one that nobody's mentioned, I also love "My Baby's Taking Me Home." The ending sounds just like Faith No More! I'm serious! Check it out! Of course, upon closer inspection, the liner notes informed me that the song features one of Faith No More's guitarists on it, so there ya go. The rest of the album rules too. I'm just too lazy to discuss every song. Honestly, there isn't a song on here I don't like. I really can't get over what an amazing return to form this album is. When Mark called this the best album the Sparks have done in 25 years (I dunno... he said it somewhere), he! wasn't kidding. A nine from me. (Bryan from Wales)
the music business changes its genres from week to week, month to month, year to year.But Sparks have never tied themselves down to be slaves of music, they are musical geniouses, putting in a massive input to the music scene lasting more than 30 year , and that takes some doing...they have always been ahead of theyre time, and have always maintianed theyre own stamp of originality, to which i take my hat off !!!!, to quote 1 music critic ...sparks are huge its just the world is small !!!!!!, I look forward to seeing that scary man and the singer with the falsetto voice this year, and await the new cd,...there will never ever be another SPARKS....I HOPE THEY WILL LAST ANOTHER 30 YEARS !!!
10 in my book.

Overall, another good job, just a few mistakes.

What about the Tubes ?

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Hello Young Lovers - In The Red 2006
Rating = 9

New Spraks album!

When Alice Cooper called his album Hey Stoopid back in 1990, he sure wasn't thinking of Hello Young Lovers by Spraks. If he was, he'd have called it Hey Great Album! That's a terrible beginning.

If you liked the classical music of Lil' Beethoven, but you missed the guitar and drums of A Woofer In Tweeter's Clothing, you're in luck because Hello Young Lovers takes the classical music of Lil' Beethoven and combines it with the guitar and drums of A Woofer In Tweeter's Clothing! Jesus.

On first listen, I thought this sounded too much like the last album and I was complaining all over the Internet about it, but then I realized I had accidentally put the last album on the stereo and didn't even own this one. Upon correction of my mishappenstance I discovered that, although it does use the same classical music blueprint that made Lil' Beethoven such a natural gas alternative, Hello Young Lovers literally 'takes it to the next level,' as a bad press release might say. Where that record thrived on repetition of key phrases for hypnotic rhythmic effect, this one features fully-developed compositions - of both classical and swing jazz persuasion - that build and develop over time through multiple sections, a variety of musical instruments, and tons of overlapping multi-tracked vocals. And the effin' guitars are essin' back, emmer effer! You emmer effin' see esser! Eat my ay, you gee dee emmer effin' son of a bee! And in the words of Madonna, "Eff off!" You hear me??? Eff off, if aff uff!!!! Hell, sometimes yff! (and supposedly wff, though I can't think of an example offhand) (Or should I say "EFF offhand!?!?!") (No)

If you like dramatic piano and violin music, get ready to whip your dick out because you gotta hear this album. And I know your turntable needle's broken so I figured a needledick like you would be per

It's not all just piano and violin though; as I said, the electric guitars have finally returned, even if not at the forefront of most of the songs. You'll also run across some echoey bass, swingin' drums, classical acoustic guitar, Spanish horns, harpsichord, a cat noise, an accordion and a high chimey instrument of some sort. It goes 'BING!' and it's way up high there. Do you see it? Probably not. It's WAAAAAAAY up there. (And auditory)

Okay, so let's say you have an album that sounds like very important, serious classical music but then a whole bunch of tracks of one guy talking or singing come in, and they're singing funny, clever, interesting things. Furthermore, imagine that this classical music is at times displaced by a snappy 'swingin' jazz' sound (while still retaining the key instruments of high art). Imagine tracks that suddenly erupt from speed violins into heavy distorted metal, or build from groovy piano tapping chords to acoustic strumming to full-fledged hard rock (with violin!), or begin as sorrowful violin/piano/harpsichord ballads and then suddenly break off into a fun accordion part for no reason. Could such songs exist? If my descriptions are accurate, chances are 50/50.

You wonder what I mean by 'singing funny, clever, interesting things.' So let's take just that phrase and elaborate a bit.

The first song is called "Dick Around." It's about a guy who used to be influential and powerful, until his lover left him. All he does now is dick around. When the moon comes up til the sun goes down. It has a happy ending though, so don't shoot yourself; you're only the piano player.

The second song is called "Perfume," and is a list of women and the perfumes they wear, followed by GOD TFU EDSGHI

Sorry, started boring myself. Hey! How about a song called "Baby Baby Can I Invade Your Country" that features the couplet "I need the enjoyment/Of rapid deployment"? Or a song whose refrain is "Chicks dig dig/D-I-G dig dig/Metaphors!" followed by the admonition "Use them wisely, use them well/And you'll never know the Hell - of loneliness"? Or how about a verse like "The rain just falls off of me/The tears just fall off of me/I'm waterproof, I'm waterproof/The barometric pressure has no relevance to me"? These seem intelligent, and related to women (in "Waterproof," he appears to be bragging about his ability to not give a shit when he makes a girl cry). I can't seem to find lyrics posted anywhere online, but if I could, I'd totally quote some more for you.

The key is smarts. This album is smart as all hell. Lyrically, it's clever and insightful, with double-meanings and quirky ways of looking at things. Vocally, every song features probably 10 vocal overdubs -- sometimes in harmony, sometimes singing back-up, sometimes just making it sound like Russell has seven clones who want to recite the words alongside him. And musically, you can tell they spent an assbuttload of time writing enough parts and borrowing enough instruments to keep the songs interesting all the way through. Not only that, but the hooks are original and really, really CATCHY! We may never know what happened during the '80s to send Spraks down the shitter of idiocy and laziness (Interior Design, for example), but they appear to be putting every ounce of effort and time they can into making sure that their twilight years are their most artistically accomplished yet.

Like me. And the way I worked really hard to make this review the best it could possibly be. Not a single wasted word or awkward segue. But that's the nature of, and that's why you'll never find a half-assed review on here.

Especially for Facepaint by The Cure.

Check this out - I wrote a new children's song:

John Jacob Suck My Ass It Smells!
His name is my name too!
And whenever we go out, butts soaked in sauerkraut,
folks say "John Jacob Suck My Ass It Smells!"
La la la la la la la!

That went well and now I'm a regular Andrew Dice "Clay," so here's another children's song I wrote:

A B C D E F G!
Q R S - T U V!
W X Y and Z!
Now I know my ABC's
My foreskin is a piece of cheese!

Can't stop now! MUSTN'T! Not with the Grammys right around the corner!

Old McDonald had a farm
Had it up the ass!
And on that farm he had some genital warts

That was to the tune of "Fairies Wear Boots" by Black Sabbath.

If you want to know the truth, this new Spraks album is fantastic. It has some ugly passages here and there (for example, the main piano lick of the final track seems to be a reference to the way that children sometimes have trouble playing "Chopsticks" correctly -- and if so, it fits the theme of the song perfectly!), but the colossal brains of these men will bust a hole right through your stereo speakers and break them, so that's good and something you want.

Reader Comments
(note: this comment was submitted two weeks before I reviewed the CD)

I thought I would give you a mini review of Sparks new cd.................and maybe you can insert it at the beginning of your Sparks review.

If problem. Just a silly thought I had while at work today.

Hello. This is Larry Graves and Mark was kind enough to let me begin this review with my own review of Sparks latest platter. Don't worry...I will be just as funny as he always is but I will only use two or three swear words instead of eighty five. I'm also not as skilled in reviewing music as Mark is but I have been a Sparks fan since 1974 and so I deserve some time in the spotlight.

I am really looking forward to Mark's review but not as much as my review.

By the way, I will not mention I have a humore site at and an upcoming comedy cd called "Redneck Canadian".

I'll now go over the songs quickly and at the end have a few final thoughts. Boy, this is fun!!!

1. Dick Around
This will go down in time as possibly Sparks finest moment. Some people have compared this to Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody but it's not that crappy. Ha ha ha. That was a funny one! You wanted guitars in a Sparks got guitars! You also have the kitchen sink. God I suck at reviewing but it's too late to stop now. You might not appreciate this track until you play it a few times but I guarantee you will love it or my name isn't Mark Prindle.

2. Perfume
The first single and it's damn catchy although like a lot of Sparks fans, I think they should have had Dick Around as the first single...which it was going to be until someone changed their minds.

3. The Very Next Fight
One of the songs I'm not loving as much as the other songs but that doesn't mean I don't like it. I like it. My one "complaint" about recent Sparks music is I wish Russell didn't talk in the songs so much and sang more (and used his falsetto more also) but after recording for over thirty years, he has the right not to sing.

4. Baby Baby Can I Invade Your Country
Acoustic guitars! Another really catchy tune. Okay...on to the next song.

5. Rock Rock Rock
Like "The Very Next Fight", not one of my favorites on the album but compared to OTHER rock albums...this might be one of the greatest songs of all time. Have I mentioned the brilliant lyrics? No, I haven't.

6. Metaphor
In a lot of these songs, they repeat things over and over and over. It almost becomes repetitive. Ha ha ha! Joke number two with more to come! Actually, this album is not as repetitive as "Lil' Beethoven". Anyway....the repetitive moments get inside your head until you can't get them back out. God, the Maels are smart!

7. Waterproof
Hopefully a future single. One of the best songs on the album and the second half will send goosebumps up and down your foot!

8. Here Kitty
A really annoying song. This is why Sparks are one of the greatest artists of all time.

9. There's No Such Thing As Aliens
Yes, that is the main lyric of the song. This has turned out to be one of my faves on the album. You'll be singing "There's No Such Thing As Aliens" all the time after you've heard this a few times. Trust me.

10. As I Sit To Play The Organ At The Notre Dame Cathedral
The highlight of the album after all the other highlights. This is pure Mael madness.

My final thoughts are.........if Mark doesn't give this album at least a 9, he is a complete moron. Actually, he is a complete moron anyway so let me rephrase that. If Mark does not give this album at least a 9, he will give it some other number. Not sure how many times Mark plays a cd before he reviews it but I hope he plays this atleast three or four times before giving it a glowing review and a 9.

I love the fact that there are a couple of songs on this album I'm still not sure of...but I know in time I will "get them". I believe this is one of Sparks best albums EVER....right up there with Kimono My House, Indiscreet and Lil Beethoven. In fact, I would put it in third place, behind Kimono and Indiscreet. What is especially pleasing is that this album is actually selling well in Europe and getting rave reviews.

Wow...I didn't even swear once during this review. Not even fucking once!!!
My take on HELLO YOUNG LOVERS will be shorter than Canadianmuffin's : I don't own it yet.

But I will. (talya)
i shouldn't be writing from this email address because it barely exists anymore, but that's what pops up when i clicka the link. i'm the same person as the person with the gmail address exactly like this but a cooler expansion on the established theme.

am i going to try to review the album? oh god. probably not yet.

but uh.. why does everyone like "perfume" so much? it's boring. it has no tune. it has one lyric and the best part is the spoken part in the middle. i'll keep listening to it to be nice (i've already started to skip it and that's not healthy. i just pirated the album like two weeks ago. someone stole the real copy from the snail mail that was supposed to be in my house when i came back from israel. they probably stole it from my checked baggage like they apparently do everything else. did you know that whoever handles the checked baggage is alloowed to steal your computer because youre too young to have the "common sense" to not pack it there? my poor sister.

the spoken word parts really need to chill out, smoke a bowl, let up a little, but i watched the lil b dvd (TOO MUCH PRERECORDED... but awesome tympanies and ron is hotttt) and i do have a sneaking suspicion russell can't sing like he used to for shit. sometimes i feel like the multitracked vocals mask his warble and i die a little inside. still, "Dick Around" employs em just right.

"baby baby can i invade your country" is the prettiest, catchiest, and surprisingly (to me, based on the stupid-ass unsubtle "timely" song title) uh.. second or third cleverest song on the record. its beautiful. i can't get enough of it. it reminds me of how i used to feel about the intro to this one baroquey erasure song. no. sorry, i mean it. god, the instrumentation is just right. all.. tink, bding, skipping over the water typa rhythm.

uh. sorry. i can't write a full composition on the thing. but bear in mind that the "D-I-G" in "Metaphor" is irritating filler and maybe they shoulda put something in that space about hearts and spades (mixed metaphors and bad puns! YES!). and that "the very next fight" is gorgeous and uses speaking properly. good pauses. a rainbow forms..

sorry. thanks
Fantastic album!

You know the name of the Album of the Year? I`m gonna tell you...

or ... take a wild guess!

Obviously deserves 9/10. Damn you Marky, you`re right!

My favourite tracks are: Metaphor [great!!!] & Rock Rock Rock

rest is A+, though.

Regards from Poland.
This is my vote for the best album of 2006. I'd make it the best album of 2007, but it came out last year :/

But it sounds like it came out in 2010! God Damn these guys are getting wackier and wackier, and the album has so much depth to it that it's absolutely staggering at first. The new sound is somewhat akin to a Beefheart album, in that it's challenging. But boy, what a payoff when you finally get in the groove. I haven't had this much fun with an album in years.

Also, I recommend getting the Live in Stockholm Lil' Beethoven DVD. Not only does it have an amazing performance of the whole album in order, but it's complete with costume changes, and a backstage peak at the Sparks dressing room (they grow potatoes for the sole purpose of making their own chips and not one but TEN pictures of the late, great Igmar Bergman.)

I hope these guys never stop being weird, funny and innovative. I can't wait to hear what they come up with next.

And thanks for tipping me off to them, Mr. Prindle.
Another great album by Sparks.

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Exotic Creatures Of The Deep - Li'l Beethoven 2008
Rating = 9

With Li'l Beethoven, Sparks unleashed an exciting new sound based on multiple vocal tracks and dramatic classical music. On Hello Young Lovers, they expanded this sound with the addition of rock instruments and a few non-classical diversions. But one question kept ringing in every Sparks fan's mind, by which I mean me and some guy who sent in a reader comment: why isn't Russell singing anymore? What happened to his wonderful falsetto? Why is just saying everything now? And those are the three questions that kept ringing in our minds.

Well, wait no more ASSHOLE, because Exotic Creatures Of The Deep reunites the Mael Brothers with actual vocal melodies! Great ones, WONDERFUL ones, CATCHY! ones - augmented by tens of thousands of accompanying voices singing in harmony!!! It also has probably too many faux-dramatic violin/piano compositions, which is the only complaint I can see any Sparks fan having with it (aside from "come on you've done this twice, think up a new sound already," but did Motorhead think up a new sound? HELL NO! And this is why the world is so good).

At first, Exotic Creatures feels like a complete break from its two predecessors, with bouncy falsetto piano-dancer "Good Morning," high-speed rocker "Strange Animal" and sleazy Queen-ish buzz-synther "I Can't Believe That You Would Fall For All The Crap In This Song" bringing back exciting memories of Indiscreet-esque stylistic diversity. But then Ron plugs in the piano/strings melodrama and keeps it going through the end of the disc, pausing only for one quick foray into (Lou Reed's) Rock and Roll with popular Internet hit "Lighten Up, Morrissey." This lack of instrumental/stylistic diversity may very well bug some listeners who feel that Sparks has already 'played out' this particular style twice already. And this is precisely why I urge all first-time listeners to focus not on the chosen instruments but on the melodies they create in conjunction with Russell's voice. A good 10 of these 13 songs are flabbergastingly stick-in-your-headish, and the other 3 aren't bad either (just slightly less memorable). Not too shabby-bad for a band on its 21st album! Particularly one that once released Interior Design.

As on the last two records, the melodies are often dark and minor-key in hilarious opposition to Ron's ridiculous, joke-filled lyrics. "Good morning! Who are you? I woke up, and saw you! I'm dreaming, still dreaming -- my life is now about to have some meaning! Good morning! I'm thinking.... I must have been drinking," Russell falsettos like a golden Bee Gee of yesteryear. "Let the monkey drive! We can have our fun!" he stomps authoritatively atop a nervous stormtrooper rhythm. "I've never been high," he swoons with love under a regal candelambra of gorgeous chamber music. "Pregnant! She got me pregnant!" he continues against haughty, bombastic piano and recorder. "The Middle Ages sucked/Spent all day in prayer," he adds as the Renaissance makes its presence known. "Photoshop me out of your life!" he cries, a lost man against the overpowering piano line of the world. And then there are two other songs, also having lyrics and titles. I wish somebody would post the darned lyrics online so I could quote more for you. Darn you, World! Post the lyrics!

Actually, somebody did post the lyrics to "Lighten Up, Morrissey," and all you 'Moz' fans (of Morrissey) can relax because the song isn't a dated complaint about the former Smith's gothic sorrow, but a request that he stop being so difficult to compete with. You see, the narrator's girlfriend is a huge Morrissey fan who constantly expresses disappointment with her beau because he's inferior to Morrissey in so many ways:

"I got comparisons coming out my ears
And she never can hit the pause
If only Morrissey weren't so Morrissey-esque
She might overlook my flaws
So lighten up, Morrissey!"

See? So he's not trashing Morrissey at all, but saying "Hey man, lighten up!" like you'd say to somebody who's kicking your ass in an exhibition boxing match. I'm pretty sure it's the same deal with The Meatmen's "Morrissey Must Die."

Exotic Creatures Of The Deep is another great album for Sparks, and easily their most singalongable record since the '70s. And sure there may be a few brief moments where you'll be all like, "Dude, enough with the fucking piano drama" (probably in the middle of "She Got Me Pregnant" or the lengthy album-closer "Likeable"), but there are so many 'instant classic' hooks on here that the less interesting segments whiz right by and become meaningless.

Reader Comments
"Particularly one that once released Interior Design." Lol. And also Music that you can dance to.
I had asked Mark a few days ago if he had heard the new Sparks cd and he told me he had, and was going to give it an 8. I was rather surprised and I was going to write back and say "I think you might change your mind after another listen or two..." and I see that Mark wisely did. Mark Prindle is one hell of a smart guy!!! :)

P.S. I have made a video for Sparks song "There's No Such Thing As Aliens" at
Fleet Foxes and Dirty Pretty Things (yes) might have released good albums in 2008, but it’s still Sparks that keep giving us the best. With that said, they have been delivering diminishing returns since the classic that was Lil’ Beethoven - all considered, one of the world’s last true classics. In that respect, come to think of it, they seem to be somewhat similar to Dylan, only I do hope they are not planning something that would have accordion as the only salvation as their next album.

But even though Exotic Creatures is not as hard-hitting as Young Lovers, it’s still a hell of an inventive record. The quirky concept behind is fantastic and typical of the Maels (all kinds of queer people addicted to all kinds of queer things), but who would care if it lacked that obnoxious, repetitive, singalongish melodicism. The highlights for me are “Good Morning”, the insanely catchy (everything here is) “Let The Monkey Drive”, the strangely lyrics-heavy “This Is The Renaissance” (the way Russell stresses the syllables in the chorus is priceless) and the closing mellow “Likeable”. Frankly, I’m still looking for a reason why they had to include the dull, uneventful groove of “The Director Never…” (“Here Kitty” with no guts), but otherwise it’s all really, really exciting. I don’t know whether I could give this a 9, since it’s so 8.5, but I can’t see why not.

Still, 2008’s best album would be Robert Forster’s The Evangelist, unquestionably. Please, do care for that one, just please.

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The Seduction Of Ingmar Bergman (Original Swedish Broadcast Version) - Li'l Beethoven 2009
Rating = 6

When Swedish Radio said to Sparks, "Hay, do a radio musical for us hay," they thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to stretch their legs, lift their wings and fly away to a new horizon of opportunity. Unfortunately, these "Swedes" demanded that at least some of the dialogue and lyrics be in -- get this -- SWEDISH! And funny thing about Swedish; I don't understand it.

Luckily, some of the dialogue and lyrics are in English. Not enough to entirely make out the plot, but sufficient to make the following points clear:

1. Ingmar Bergman wins some awards at Cannes.
2. Ingmar Bergman winds up in a Hollywood limo with no idea why he is there or where he is going.
3. A Hollywood studio asks Ingmar Bergman to make a film for them, for which he will have complete artistic control.
4. Ingmar Bergman gets angry on the set of his movie.
5. A female actress gets angry at Ingmar Bergman for being rude to her on the set.
6. Ingmar Bergman leaves his hotel and is mobbed by autograph seekers.
7. Ingmar Bergman decides he wants to go home, but Hollywood sends out the police to prevent him from doing so.
8. Greta Garbo sings a song.
9. Ingmar Bergman is back home in Sweden, happy.

According to sources, the parts I can't understand explain that, after winning the Cannes award, Bergman goes to a movie theater to watch a corny American blockbuster. Upon leaving the theater, he inexplicably finds himself in Hollywood. The limo chaffeur drops him off at a hotel, where a hooker sent from the studio greets him. The movie set scenes (#4 and #5 above) apparently only take place in his mind, but the huge chase scene is real -- and meant as a parody of a corny American blockbuster. Finally Bergman arrives on a beach and asks God for help, at which point Greta Garbo shows up. She escorts him to a theater showing one of her films, and when it's over, he's magically back in Sweden. But I can't confirm any of that until the "English version" is finally released, which won't be for another day or two.

So will further insight into the lyrics actually raise my 6 grade to something higher -- for example, a 7? I doubt it. First of all, the lyrics and dialogue that I do understand aren't particularly witty or compelling, and more importantly, Ron and Russell Spark only offer up a few new melodies, which they then reuse over and over in typical Broadway fashion. Some of the orchestral melodies are quite appealing in their melodrama and sorrow, but you'll be ready to throw your ears in the toilet can by the fourth or fifth time you hear them (for example, "I Am Ingmar Bergman," "Hollywood Welcoming Committee," "The Studio Commissary," "Autograph Hounds" and "Almost A Hollywood Ending" are all minor variations on a single musical composition). And yes, as you probably already suspect, it's mostly orchestral -- with only one '70s-style glam rocker to be found (the killer "Mr. Bergman, How Are You?"). So maybe it works as radio drama (if you're Swedish), but it's far too repetitive to be as satisfying as a "real" Sparks album (okay, maybe an '80s Sparks album).

Of note to blunderbusses is that Ron Mael sings! on this record. And oh, what a thin wimpy voice he has. Hey Ron! Don't quit your day job!!!! (because we're in the middle of a recession, and there are very few open positions.) Actually, let me extend that piece of advice to my readers as well.

On an underrelated note, I saw Devo perform Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are DEVO! in its entirety tonight and was pleased to discover that, even as a crotchety old 36-year-old, I couldn't stop my body from bouncing up and down excitedly from the opening seconds of "Uncontrollable Urge" through the final notes of the second encore ("Secret Agent Man"). Those guys may be older than a dinosaur, but they kick more ass than a passenger pigeon!

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Let's all smell gas!