37 years after their debut LP Sparks release `Exotic Creatures Of The Deep', their 21st studio album. Recorded in their Los Angeles studio, brothers Ron and Russell Mael once again display their extraordinary ability to create, to challenge, and to confound. Should it be possible for two people to be so fresh, so vital, so unpredictable and so incomparably individual?
The result of a year spent in near-isolation `Exotic Creatures Of The Deep' could, perhaps, be seen as a natural evolution from their last two records on which pop-opera, rock and high drama combined to redefine Sparks' sound. During these recent times the cognoscenti, those "in the know", have lauded and applauded Sparks whilst enjoying membership of an exclusive club. However, these remarkably exceptional, and notably catchy, creations look set to be the key that enables many more to, as Sparks have said, `come and meet them'.
Sparks will be performing `Exotic Creatures Of The Deep' live in concert at Shepherds Bush Empire on June 13th as the pinnacle of the Sparks Spectacular. Commencing on May 16th at the Islington Academy with a performance of their 1971 album Halfnelson, Sparks will play a record breaking 21 albums in 21 nights, one album each night.
21 albums in (complete with a 21-night London residency playing every one of those albums), it seems that Sparks are defying the odds and delivering their finest works to date. As with previous albums Lil' Beethoven
, and Hello Young Lovers
, this is pop music, but it's fun, accessible, demented, clever and unlike anything else being made--everything good pop music should be. The narrative approach of the last two albums appears to have been ditched in favour of proper songs (relatively speaking), and a thankful return for Russell Mael's patent falsetto. Thus, "Good Morning" bursts forth, riding on a catchy synth-bass riff that Scissor Sisters would sell their wardrobes for, and "Let the Monkey Drive" builds up into a thrilling, disturbed crescendo. The layered harmonies and multi-part song structures are still in place, but toned down, which makes the material more accessible. And even the hilarious song titles such as "(She Got Me) Pregnant" and the indie-boy baiting of "Lighten Up Morrissey" belie the fact that underneath all the drama and clever lyrics, Ron and Russell Mael are making the best pop music in the world today. --Thom Allott