Aural Fixation/The Forgotten Arm: Sparks

It was only a matter of time until I devoted a post to Sparks, my favorite band and the greatest band that no one has heard of.

Vocalist Russell Mael and his big brother, keyboardist/songwriter Ron, have been making impossibly innovative and enjoyable records since 1971 (though at first, they performed under the name Halfnelson). Over the course of those nearly 40 years, Sparks have dipped their feet into a wide variety of genres, including power pop, new wave, electronic dance and, most recently, experimental orchestral music. In 21 albums (22 if you include their new “pop musical,” The Seduction Of Ingmar Bergman), Sparks have earned a small but rabidly fanatic audience, mostly outside of their native America. In fact, Sparks have spent so much time performing overseas (U.S. dates are a rare occurrence) that most new listeners mistake them for being British.

In the ’80s, Sparks had a few minor hits, most prominently “Cool Places,” which featured Go-Go’s guitarist Jane Wiedlin. That song, along with a few others from their mid-career era, cracked the charts both in the U.S. and U.K., but further fame eluded them. Not that Sparks are the kind of band to give up under those conditions. The guys took a short hiatus in the early ’90s before returning with a new, more hardcore electronic sound that reflected the popularity of bands like The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers (most overtly heard on their 2000 record, Balls),

Now that Sparks are entering their fourth decade, they are finally getting some recognition. Their last few albums have gotten the attention of the BBC, as “Dick Around,” from 2006’s Hello Young Lovers was banned from airplay. Recently, Neko Case covered “Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth” (originally from 1974’s Propaganda) for her Middle Cyclone album.

With all of their boundless creativity and progressive direction, it’s no wonder that anyone who likes Sparks, loves Sparks.

Watch: Sparks – “I Can’t Believe That You Would Fall For All The Crap In This Song” (from 2009’s Exotic Creatures Of The Deep) on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross


~ by E. on August 27, 2009.

One Response to “Aural Fixation/The Forgotten Arm: Sparks”

  1. Damn! You let our secret out!

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