Reviews

Published on June 3rd, 2008 | by The Monarch

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Sparks – Exotic Creatures of the Deep

The brothers Mael are back with their 21st album and it’s hard to believe that after a 37 year career they could still sound fresh, relevant and as genuine as ever but their new album ‘Exotic Creatures of the Deep’ is another in a long line of SPARKeling gems.

Their last two albums (2002’s LiL Beethoven and 2006’s Hello Young Lovers) dabbled in the quasi-operatic sounds which reignited their careers and were their best efforts since the magnificent string of albums in the 70s. ‘Exotic Creatures of the Deep’ moves slightly away from the classical style and becomes a little more electronic, but unlike a few of their dire 19haties albums this time they get it right.

The new album is definitely the first to sound like the Sparks of old in this new era of their career. Their last 2 were reinventions, this time they’re recapturing a more pure pop sound but still remaining firmly entrenched in 2008. It is much more varied than the previous two albums. The same staccato piano and electronica template with multi-tracked choirs of Russell Mael stays, but there are also heavy guitars (courtesy of Dean Manta from Faith No More) and even a return to the barbershop and swing pastiches of the 70s glory years. The lead single from the album is the hilarious ‘Good Morning’ in which we hear the tale of a man who wakes up after a big night’s partying and realizes the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen is in his bed with him. He has no recollection of the night before but as he says “Thank you God for something rare as this, what surely must have been a holy night of bliss”.

It’s an extremely catchy tune which will be stuck in your head all day long and when people in the office say good morning you really do want to burst into song. The lyrics are indeed unmistakably Sparks – “Good morning, you woke up, got dressed up, hair messed up, while I fix you breakfast, I hope it’s just your laugh that is infectious”. However not all is well when the girl decides to leave him, wich leaves Russell asking “Does “do svidania” really mean Good Morning?”. The album is held in perfect balance, if this song is about the party animal then “I never got High.” is certainly about the complete opposite.

The theme of being unlucky in love continues on the stand out track of the album “Lighten Up, Morrissey” in which Russell is frustrated that he is constantly compared to Morrissey by his girlfriend. Lyrics such as “She won’t have sex with me, No, she won’t have sex unless it’s done with a pseudonym / She won’t do sport with me, No, she won’t do sport ‘Cos it’s way, way too masculine, look at him”. The track features a really cool guitar outro and Russell’s voice is showing no signs of aging with falsetto in full swing.

The album contains one of their best Glitter Stomp tracks ever with the fantastically named “I can’t believe you’d fall for all the crap in this song”. A couple of the tracks are pure 70s Sparks, you could almost swear they were remastered outtakes from “Propaganda” or one of those albums. “Strange Animal”, “She got me pregnant” and “This Is The Renaissance” are absolutely sublime pop songs. “Strange Animal” is the perfect example of where the band has come from to what they are now. It has the barbershop feel from the 70s which suddenly changes to a foot stomping rocker with thundering drums and heavy guitar.

Once again this is not dumb pop with both songs containing witty lyrics sorely missed in mainstream music these days. The album does have a couple of low points, I found the need to have an “Intro” track and an “Intro Reprise” a little needless as they don’t really offer much to the album. “Let the Monkey Drive” is the closest they come to their previous two albums with a semi-classical piano platform to work from, however it doesn’t reach the standards of those albums.

They also did set the bar ridiculously high on their last album with their greatest ever song, the epic “Dick Around” and unfortunately as good as this album is there isn’t a song that can rival that one. At ages 60 and 59 respectively, Ron and Russell Mael still manage to deliver the goods. Showing no signs of slowing down either this album is being released to coincide with a 21 night run of concerts in London where Sparks will play every single album they’ve done in chronological order climaxing with the debut concert for “Exotic Creatures of the Deep”. If young pop bands would look to these two veterans for tips on how to write a catchy, witty and fully enjoyable song the world would be a better place.


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