🎵 How Good Are They Really 🎵 Sparks

Funny as fuck, plenty of bangers, incredible long-spanning career, weird as hell, what’s not to like? 5

My favourite track:

1 Like

I’m only just starting to redress a lifetime of neglect and I’m taking it slow so really only familiar with a handful of albums thus far but oh my god they’re absolutely in a league of their own, aren’t they? Propaganda is my current go-to and my favourite of those I’ve heard/obtained but I feel like I have years ahead of me to truly uncover all their sublime idiosyncracies.

Probably ought to give them a 4 but I’m feeling that early blush of love, so 5 it is.

2 Likes

Easy 5, one of the very vest bands ever. Imagine being able to come up with something like this nearly 50 years into your career

Listened to all the big albums but naturally still huge gaps in my knowledge. Deep cuts from the true Maelheads on here would be appreciated.

Everything i’ve ever heard from them has been really irritating. Turn it off immediately irritating. Probably the same as many felt about Jamiroquai tbh. A big ol’ 1.

1 Like

Yeah, pretty great. Had only been into the odd song until I saw them live a few years ago at Primavera and it was an absolute highlight of the weekend. Still only dipped into bits of their catalogue, but the rare band that’s been going over 50 years where you can dive in at any point and find something good (even if the very best records I’ve heard are the ones from the 70s on the whole). So, still got more to explore but have enjoyed slowly getting into the band. 4/5 for me.

1 Like

Surprised how little chat this one’s getting.

3 Likes

The thought of trying to convey the magnificence of Sparks in a few paragraphs is utterly crippling but in short, on some days of the week, I think they’re the greatest pop band that ever existed who, 50 years into their career, continue to redefine exactly what a band can and should do.

If you ask me what they do better than anyone it’s that they write addictively delirious music with borderline hysterical vox/lyrics that risks going overboard at times, but they do it with such an awareness of their own absurdity/silliness that it rarely does. it’s there in ‘this town…’, ‘something for the girl…’, ‘in the future’ ‘no.1 song in heaven’, ‘tips for teens’, ‘mickey mouse’, ‘how do I get to carnegie hall’, ‘dick around’ ‘missionary position’, ‘stravinskys only hit’… and so many others right across their career, irrespective of what genre they’re working in at that time. As with any artist with anywhere near the longevity Sparks have had there’s going to be peaks and troughs but, to me, they’ve always retained that core idea of what Sparks is. I don’t think they’ve ever, at any time, lost the plot so to speak.

Can’t remember what prompted me but I remember getting a sparks compilation (Mael intuition - the island years) out of the library around '94, taped it, and for a few years that was all I had. I then picked up all the island records (the British musicians they worked with at that point, plus muff winwood and Visconti on production… they all brought their ‘A’ game) and ‘no.1 song in heaven’ album (imperial phase Morodor bringing everything you would want and expect to the project). no lyric sheets though and pre internet so I had no fucking idea what they were singing about most of the time thus, despite having a few albums, they were still a complete enigma to me. Then I remember reading an ecstatic review of 2002)'s ‘L’il Beethoven’ album, not long after it came out, so I decided to take a punt on it. first album of theirs I’d got when it came out (more or less) and it was an utter revelation. there was traces of other, less pop influences (Steve Reich, err… beethoven, faith no more) but it didn’t sound like anyone but sparks. weird-avant-orchestral pop, heartbreaking ballads about marrying yourself, compulsively repetitious songs with the lyric being one line going round and round like an intrusive thought, but all with that addictive delirium. a masterpiece and one of their top 5 albums imo.

nearly 30 years after they broke through, this pair of veterans in their 50’s were my favourite band.

I’ve loved everything they’ve done since ‘L’il Beethoven’ (except FFS which didn’t quite land for me but still have us the great ‘johnny delusional’ single) and I’m so chuffed for them that they finally got to realise their ambition of releasing a film AND that commercially they’re major players again. I’d go as far to say that even if their 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s output didn’t exist, they’d still be my favourite band this century.

I can’t wait to see what they do next.

obviously Russell is a brilliantly idiosyncratic singer but he’s so much more than that, He also engineers all Sparks latter day albums at their home studio (a mark of Sparks self sufficiency, ability to adapt to record industry changes, and just sheer fucking will to keep making amazing pop music) and he’s still a staggeringly energetic front man by most standards, let alone someone of his advancing years. He’s also chipped in with 1 or 2 decent songs himself (‘Roger’ from their very first album and ‘pineapple’ from indiscreet’ being particular faves) As great a songwriter as Ron is (and we’ll come to that) I can’t imagine any other singer doing all these songs justice.

Ron’s songwriting is simply dizzying, from the vaulting melodies he wrote in the mid 70’s to his frankly mind boggling ability to wring pathos from the most absurd premise. there’s no subject that’s too silly for him to write about. He (and Sparks as a whole in terms of how they present the band, the recent documentary being an excellent example of this) are absolute masters of show and tell and I suspect he’s showing us a lot more about himself than Sparks’ stylized music/image may let on. Also think there’s an argument for Ron being the most quietly stylish man in pop. He’s had some amazing looks and he’s never, in 50 years, looked shit. Think that’s some achievement for a pop star.

10/5 (Ron & Russell get 5 each)

16 Likes

Total blind spot for me. ‘This town…’ always did my head in, i think cause I’d only heard bits of it in an advert but i think i heard a different version of it fairly recently and thought ‘Actually that’s quite a braw wee song.’

Don’t think I’ve knowingly heard another of their songs.

Only 50 votes too. Weird.

Wrote a thing that got chewed up by my phone but wanted to point out the remarkable audacity of that London residency when they played all of their albums to date in full, with B-side encores. A wild idea to even attempt, let alone pull off, even for a band with a discography half their size. Absolute mad lads, really no-one else like them in the whole game.

3 Likes

It’s a big ol’5 from me. Absolutely nobody like them around. Also the FFS record is really good.

1 Like

Granted I’m in a different time zone and only just approaching noon, I recently expressed my thoughts in a thread about their documentary (and 1974 HGWTY) so I probably won’t repeat myself here. I really love a handful of their albums, some other stuff I’ve heard is a little irritating, and there’s a lot I haven’t heard. Solid 4. I’ll probably share some fav tracks.

1 Like

I only got into them off the back of The Franz ferdinand album.

4 from me.

I love this one

4 Likes
6 Likes

First band so far that I have never heard of

I don’t think it’s been mentioned - the packaging of Propaganda is so tight. I’d love to have it on Vinyl one day

this is my fave

2 Likes

My Way is one of the first pieces of popular music that seemed to “get” me. At the tender age of 10 I had already started developing a faint feeling of what I would later come to know as alienation about the world and it just seemed to nail that. I hadn’t really thought about it or them for years until the doc, but when My Way came on I realised that I had wasted 28 years that I could have been listening to it every day.

The rest of Gratuitous Sax was patchy on further investigation. Around half was great, but the rest was really really quite annoying. I suspect I will find this to be a recurring theme based on my reactions to various bits of the documentary.

As an outside bet for track to listen to Frankly Scarlett I Don’t Give a Damn really stood out - riffs on Music for 18 Musicians, but with lyrics about Gone With The Wind for some reason. Lovely work.

A generous 4.

1 Like

Some favs (avoiding the big ones)

2 Likes