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Electronic - Released November 15, 2019 | BMG Rights Management (UK) Ltd

Distinctions 4F de Télérama
Even the cover art is great, playing with the same fake tabloid style that Guns N' Roses tried but with funnier results. Beginning with a semi-echo of the start of Propaganda, with the a cappella "Gratuitous Sax" leading into the surging, well-deserved European smash hit "When Do I Get to Sing 'My Way'," Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins broke a near seven-year silence from Ron and Russell Mael -- the longest period of time by far since their start in between major releases. Rather than sounding tired or out of touch, though, the brothers gleefully embraced the modern synth/house/techno explosion for their own purposes (an explosion which, after all, they had helped start with their work during the late '70s with Giorgio Moroder). Solely recorded by the Maels with no outside help, Sax keeps that same, perfect Sparks formula -- Russell's sweet vocals soar with smart and suspect lyrics over Ron's sometimes fast and furious, sometimes slow and elegant melodies, here performed with detailed electronic lushness. They make their style live yet again, feeling far fresher here than on Interior Design. "(When I Kiss You) I hear Charlie Parker Playing" finds Russell rapping (!), "I Thought I Told You to Wait in the Car" has a great building chorus, and "Let's Go Surfing" helps wrap up the album with a wistfully triumphant call to arms. "Tsui Hark" is the one slight departure from the formula, featuring the Hong Kong director Hark himself giving a brief autobiography while a colleague speaks in Chinese. Though some longtime fans groused that they missed the more rocked-up Sparks of the early '70s (or early '80s) in comparison, all in all, Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins is a well-deserved return to form from a band which has deserved far more attention from the musical world, or the world at large, than they have received. © Ned Raggett /TiVo
CD£16.99

Pop - Released November 8, 2019 | BMG Rights Management (UK) Ltd

Distinctions 4F de Télérama
Showcasing the best of their extensive catalog, Past Tense: The Best of Sparks compiles the greatest-loved tracks from the band's 50-year career. Including rare early recordings of songs like "Computer Girl" and "Piss Off," as well as iconic hits such as "When Do I Get to Sing 'My Way'," the collection was released in November 2019. © David Crone /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released May 15, 2020 | BMG Rights Management (UK) Limited

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For over fifty years, the Mael brothers Ron (the one with the moustache) and Russell (the one with the shaggy hair) have been writing sophisticated baroque-pop songs that border on kitsch. Sparks are one of those bands who were never really popular with the general public but have been greatly admired by many famous musicians. Their reputation seems to traverse all styles and genres, from Depeche Mode, Björk, New Order and Kurt Cobain through to The Smiths, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Sonic Youth, not to mention the kooky Franz Ferdinand with whom Sparks recorded an album entitled FFS (for Franz Ferdinand Sparks). This 24th album, A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip, is equally as brilliant as its predecessors. It features fourteen synthetic pop tracks and is surprisingly contemporary for a duo of brothers who are both over the age of seventy. As ever, the pair inject humour into their music with tracks like iPhone (“Put your fucking iPhone down and listen to me…”) and Lawnmower (about a “showstopping” lawnmower) but the album ends on a more touching song with choral vocal effects, entitled Please Don’t Fuck Up My World, in which the gravity of their message comes through the seemingly lighthearted music. This is the perfect album to listen whilst waiting for the release of Sparks’ musical comedy directed by Leos Carax, which is out soon. © Yan Céh/Qobuz
CD£7.99

Pop - Released January 1, 2006 | Island Records (The Island Def Jam Music Group / Universal Music)

Arguably one of Sparks' best albums, 1974's Kimono My House finds the brothers Mael (Ron wrote most the songs and played keyboards, while Russell was the singing frontman) ingeniously playing their guitar- and keyboard-heavy pop mix on 12 consistently fine tracks. Adding a touch of bubblegum, and even some of Zappa's own song-centric experimentalism to the menu, the Maels spruce up a sleazy Sunset Strip with a bevy of Broadway-worthy performances here: as the band expertly revs up the glam rock-meets-Andrew Lloyd Webber backdrops, Russell sends things into space with his operatic vocals and ever-clever lyrics. And besides two of their breakthrough hits (the English chart-toppers "This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us" and "Amateur Hour"), the album features one of their often-overlooked stunners, "Here in Heaven." Essential. © Stephen Cook /TiVo
CD£6.99

Pop - Released January 1, 1990 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

A well-chosen, 20-track compilation derived from the group's three best albums (Kimono My House, Propaganda, and Indiscreet), released during their brief, productive tenure with Island Records. Producers Muff Winwood (for the first two, harder-rocking albums) and Tony Visconti (the more varied and elaborately arranged Indiscreet) both provide the Mael brothers with solid, sympathetic settings for their witty, rapid-fire lyrics and manic delivery. Songs range from the aggressive riff of "At Home, at Work, at Play" (a precursor to the heavier sound of the 1976 album, Big Beat) to the uncanny Andrews Sisters evocation "Looks, Looks, Looks." Russell Mael's quavery falsetto is an acquired taste, and his vocal affectations can try the listener's nerves on prolonged exposure. Also, their tendency to deliver a few hundred lyrics in as many seconds makes interpretation a challenge, but their perverse humor rewards the effort. This is probably all the Sparks the casual fan needs. © James A. Gardner /TiVo
CD£11.49

Pop - Released January 1, 1997 | Lil Beethoven Records

CD£7.99

Pop - Released January 1, 1974 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Arguably one of Sparks' best albums, 1974's Kimono My House finds the brothers Mael (Ron wrote most the songs and played keyboards, while Russell was the singing frontman) ingeniously playing their guitar- and keyboard-heavy pop mix on 12 consistently fine tracks. Adding a touch of bubblegum, and even some of Zappa's own song-centric experimentalism to the menu, the Maels spruce up a sleazy Sunset Strip with a bevy of Broadway-worthy performances here: as the band expertly revs up the glam rock-meets-Andrew Lloyd Webber backdrops, Russell sends things into space with his operatic vocals and ever-clever lyrics. And besides two of their breakthrough hits (the English chart-toppers "This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us" and "Amateur Hour"), the album features one of their often-overlooked stunners, "Here in Heaven." Essential. © Stephen Cook /TiVo
CD£9.49

Pop - Released August 11, 2008 | Rhino

Like Sparks' debut, A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing starts with a killer opening track, musically and lyrically -- "Girl from Germany" is a chugging number detailing the problems the narrator has with his parents over his girlfriend, given their lingering wartime attitudes. The album builds upon the strengths of the debut to create an even better experience all around. The same five-person lineup offers more sharp performances. Engineering veteran James Lowe takes over production reins from Todd Rundgren, with, happily, no audible sense of trying to make the album more commercial. If anything, things are even wiggier this time around, from the naughtily titled sea shanty "Beaver O'Lindy" that turns into a full-on rocker and the strings-plus-piano "Here Comes Bob" to the album's completely wacked-out, dramatic centerpiece "Moon Over Kentucky." Melodies start approaching the hyperactive level that flowered completely on the band's subsequent releases. Ron Mael and Earle Mankey trade off or play against each other, while the rhythm section of Jim Mankey and Harley Feinstein executes the kind of sharp tempo changes that would become de rigueur for thrash-metal bands of the '80s, but fit in perfectly here with the spastic pop on display. Russell Mael soars and croons over it all like an angel on deeply disturbing drugs, wrapping his vocals around such lines as "We surely will appreciate our newfound leisure time" from "Nothing Is Sacred." The long-time live favorite "Do-Re-Mi" -- indeed a cover of the number from The Sound of Music -- first appears here as well, taking Rodgers & Hammerstein to a level that even Julie Andrews would be hard-pressed to follow. Anyone who later wondered why Faith No More appeared on Sparks' self-tribute album Plagiarism need only listen to Woofer to understand. As a full-on purée of musical styles in the service of twisted viewpoints, it's a perfect album. © Ned Raggett /TiVo
CD£13.99

Pop - Released September 8, 2017 | BMG Rights Management (UK) Ltd

When Ron and Russell Mael were growing up, their parents probably told them they were too clever for their own good on a regular basis. But the joke's on Mom and Dad, since the Mael brothers have managed to build a lasting career out of being the smarty-pantses behind Sparks, who've been doing their very particular thing since 1970 with no sign of stopping. Released in 2017, Hippopotamus isn't an especially groundbreaking release for Sparks, but it's a more than solid effort that shows they haven't lost a bit of their smarts or their snarky way with a melody, an especially impressive achievement when you consider Russell was 68 and Ron was 72 when this album was released. This hardly sounds like the work of senior citizens, while it also sounds like Sparks and nobody else; Russell's gloriously pompous vocals are as theatrical as ever, and his instrument is in fine shape, while Ron's keyboards dominate the arrangements, carrying the melodies that combine pop hooks with prog-like bombast (though despite their arty side, this band is still incapable of keeping a straight face for long). Hippopotamus sounds contemporary without straining to appear up-to-date (despite the derisive Taylor Swift reference), at least to the extent that Sparks are as cheerfully out of place now as they've ever been, and the craft here is essentially flawless. And lyrically, Ron and Russell are still the Oscar Wildes of idiosyncratic pop, tossing out an endless series of bon mots about the mechanics of sex, people who tragically love the color brown, deities who hate being bothered with trivial requests, the pros and cons of giddiness, the behavior of French filmmakers, and how that hippo got into their swimming pool. If you've never liked Sparks, Hippopotamus isn't likely to convince you otherwise, but as a band that seems perversely proud of being an acquired taste, this album shows Sparks are still in fine fettle, and this should delight their loyal fan base. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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CD£11.49

Pop - Released March 2, 1979 | Lil Beethoven Records

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Pop - Released January 1, 1974 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

What better way to promote Sparks' spinning blender of demented pop than Propaganda? The band's fourth album (and second with producer Muff Winwood) is chock-full of great ideas, including the overseas hits "Something for the Girl With Everything" and "Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth." With Russell Mael delivering the lyrics in his rapid-fire falsetto, the lyric sheet is a necessary compass, as the clever wordplay is a key to discovering what these pranksters are up to. Ron Mael's skewed take on relationships ("At Home, at Work, at Play," "Don't Leave Me Alone With Her") are nearly upstaged by the hyperactive arrangements, but when the words and the music click, it's pure magic. In fact, "Bon Voyage" might be the most sublime song they've ever written, teetering between genuine pathos for and lampooning of the plight of those left behind by Noah and his ark. Other highlights include "Achoo" (about, you guessed it, catching a cold) and "Who Don't Like Kids," in which Mael uncorks the opening lines "You got a cigar, here's a couple more/Because the offspring are springing through swinging doors" in a few seconds. The torrential outpouring of words and ideas, underscored by guitars and keyboards with oft-shifting rhythms, either repels or attracts listeners. Though the similarities to Queen are sometimes striking, they eschew that band's seriousness and epic guitar work, favoring hit-or-miss observations that suggest a cross between 10cc and the power pop of the late '70s. Propaganda remains one of Sparks' brightest achievements, brimming with a loopy charm that continued to captivate the open-minded English listeners, if not their close-minded countrymen in the U.S. [Note that European CD reissues in the late '90s include non-album B-sides from the record's two U.K. singles as bonus tracks: "Alabamy Right" and "Marry Me."] © Dave Connolly /TiVo
CD£6.99

Pop - Released January 1, 2006 | Island Records (The Island Def Jam Music Group / Universal Music)

What better way to promote Sparks' spinning blender of demented pop than Propaganda? The band's fourth album (and second with producer Muff Winwood) is chock-full of great ideas, including the overseas hits "Something for the Girl With Everything" and "Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth." With Russell Mael delivering the lyrics in his rapid-fire falsetto, the lyric sheet is a necessary compass, as the clever wordplay is a key to discovering what these pranksters are up to. Ron Mael's skewed take on relationships ("At Home, at Work, at Play," "Don't Leave Me Alone With Her") are nearly upstaged by the hyperactive arrangements, but when the words and the music click, it's pure magic. In fact, "Bon Voyage" might be the most sublime song they've ever written, teetering between genuine pathos for and lampooning of the plight of those left behind by Noah and his ark. Other highlights include "Achoo" (about, you guessed it, catching a cold) and "Who Don't Like Kids," in which Mael uncorks the opening lines "You got a cigar, here's a couple more/Because the offspring are springing through swinging doors" in a few seconds. The torrential outpouring of words and ideas, underscored by guitars and keyboards with oft-shifting rhythms, either repels or attracts listeners. Though the similarities to Queen are sometimes striking, they eschew that band's seriousness and epic guitar work, favoring hit-or-miss observations that suggest a cross between 10cc and the power pop of the late '70s. Propaganda remains one of Sparks' brightest achievements, brimming with a loopy charm that continued to captivate the open-minded English listeners, if not their close-minded countrymen in the U.S. [Note that European CD reissues in the late '90s include non-album B-sides from the record's two U.K. singles as bonus tracks: "Alabamy Right" and "Marry Me."] © Dave Connolly /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2006 | Island Records (The Island Def Jam Music Group / Universal Music)

In the '70s and '80s, Sparks' American fans couldn't understand why the Mael Brothers weren't as big in the United States as they were in England. "Why don't more of our fellow Americans realize just how great these guys are?" was the question that Sparks addicts in the U.S. often found themselves asking. Whatever the reason, British audiences really connected with Sparks' goofy, insanely clever lyrics -- and the fact that Russell Mael sings like he could be an eccentric upper-class Englishman (although he was born and raised in Los Angeles) probably didn't hurt. Indiscreet, which was the Mael Brothers' third album for Island and their fifth album overall, is state-of-the-art Sparks. The power pop melodies are consistently infectious, and the lyrics are as humorous as one expects Sparks lyrics to be -- nutty gems like "Pineapple," "Happy Hunting Ground," "Tits," and "Get in the Swing" will easily appeal to those who like to think of Russell and Ron Mael as the pop/rock equivalent of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Like other Sparks releases of the '70s, Indiscreet did much better in England than it did on the North American side of the Atlantic. In the U.S., this 1975 LP appealed to a small but enthusiastic cult following -- in Great Britain, Indiscreet was a big seller and appealed to a much larger and broader audience. Over the years, Sparks has experimented with everything from hard rock to Euro-disco. But power pop is the primary focus of Indiscreet, which went down in history as one of the band's best '70s albums. © Alex Henderson /TiVo
CD£9.49

Pop - Released August 11, 2008 | Rhino

Within the first track of their debut album -- the crisp, minimal pounder "Wonder Girl," featuring Russell Mael's falsetto already engaged in swooping acrobatics and Ron Mael's sparkling piano work to the fore, singing ever-so-slightly-weird lyrics about love that couldn't quite be taken at face value -- Sparks established themselves so perfectly that arguably the rest of the brothers' long career has been a continual refinement from that basic formula. Even more striking is realizing how astoundingly prescient it was; what must have sounded indescribably strange in 1972 now feels like the precursor to nearly all of new wave, a fair chunk of synth-pop, and just about any music with a brain. As it stands, the original Sparks group, with brothers Jim and Earle Mankey on bass and guitar and Harvey Feinstein on drums accompanying the Maels, was as tight and accomplished as the classic Alice Cooper lineup, but given to their own brand of clever insanity (the fact that there's a loud-rocking original on here called "(No More) Mr. Nice Guys" makes you wonder if that other band wasn't listening in). Todd Rundgren's production is generally spare but very effective, with snippets of cymbal and keyboard leaping out from the speakers at odd moments. The twisted, '50s piano-rock loper "High C" practically invents Queen in both shuffling rock-out and heavy rockabilly camp phases; "Fletcher Honorama" slides and slinks along in a wickedly dreamy way; and "Slowboat" combines show tunes, cabaret, and rock to magnificent effect. With other songs like "Biology 2," "Fa La Fa Lee," and the brilliantly titled "Saccaharin and the War," Sparks remains a wonderfully entertaining listen and an honestly unique debut. © Ned Raggett /TiVo
CD£1.99

Pop - Released February 19, 2020 | BMG Rights Management (UK) Limited

CD£6.99

Pop - Released January 1, 2006 | Island Records (The Island Def Jam Music Group / Universal Music)

Most of this album finds Sparks doing what they do best: spewing out clever, mile-a-minute lyrics over solid-rocking accompaniment (this time, provided by a superior group of studio musicians). Drummer Hilly Michaels and guitarist Jeffrey Salen lend the Mael brothers' songs considerable rock & roll authority. Standouts include the opening blast, "Big Boy" (which was featured in the film Rollercoaster), the propulsive "Fill-Er-Up," and the falsetto-delivered proclamation "I Like Girls," apparently a leftover from their previous album, Indiscreet. Generally, however, they eschew the elaborate arrangements of Indiscreet and go for a powerful, stripped-down sound. As titles such as "Everybody's Stupid" and "Thrown Her Away (And Get a New One)" suggest, the album brims with decidedly politically incorrect (and often hilarious) lyrics. © James A. Gardner /TiVo
CD£13.49

Pop - Released January 1, 1974 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

What better way to promote Sparks' spinning blender of demented pop than Propaganda? The band's fourth album (and second with producer Muff Winwood) is chock-full of great ideas, including the overseas hits "Something for the Girl With Everything" and "Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth." With Russell Mael delivering the lyrics in his rapid-fire falsetto, the lyric sheet is a necessary compass, as the clever wordplay is a key to discovering what these pranksters are up to. Ron Mael's skewed take on relationships ("At Home, at Work, at Play," "Don't Leave Me Alone With Her") are nearly upstaged by the hyperactive arrangements, but when the words and the music click, it's pure magic. In fact, "Bon Voyage" might be the most sublime song they've ever written, teetering between genuine pathos for and lampooning of the plight of those left behind by Noah and his ark. Other highlights include "Achoo" (about, you guessed it, catching a cold) and "Who Don't Like Kids," in which Mael uncorks the opening lines "You got a cigar, here's a couple more/Because the offspring are springing through swinging doors" in a few seconds. The torrential outpouring of words and ideas, underscored by guitars and keyboards with oft-shifting rhythms, either repels or attracts listeners. Though the similarities to Queen are sometimes striking, they eschew that band's seriousness and epic guitar work, favoring hit-or-miss observations that suggest a cross between 10cc and the power pop of the late '70s. Propaganda remains one of Sparks' brightest achievements, brimming with a loopy charm that continued to captivate the open-minded English listeners, if not their close-minded countrymen in the U.S. [Note that European CD reissues in the late '90s include non-album B-sides from the record's two U.K. singles as bonus tracks: "Alabamy Right" and "Marry Me."] © Dave Connolly /TiVo
CD£9.99

Pop - Released June 1, 1984 | Lil Beethoven Records

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Pop - Released January 28, 1980 | Lil Beethoven Records

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Pop - Released November 26, 2002 | Lil Beethoven Records