How many bands can honestly say that their 20th album is possibly their best work? Against the norm (and as contradictory as always), Sparks' latest opus Hello Young Lovers
proves effortlessly that it can be done. Their previous outing (2002s Lil' Beethoven
) was a wondrous sonic adventure, impossible to pigeonhole, slightly marred only by its unfamiliar musical territory and lack of traditional Sparks sound.
Here, the balance is redressed enough to appeal to fans of the dramatic orchestral advances that album made, and those who prefer the sound of the band's early classics, be it "Beat The Clock", "Wonder Girl" or "This Town
". The familiar lyrical protagonists--part down-at heel everymen, part hysterical lunatic--are still in place, augmented by a fuller band sound and catchier hooks; multi-parted operatic sweeps, infinitely tracked Russell Mael vocals and abrupt stylistic changes furnish nearly every song, creating a catalogue of mutant pop songs that take overblown suite-like construction (think "Bohemian Rhapsody" on hard drugs) as their template and re-fit it for the 21st Century. This creates an album that sounds like nothing else you'll hear, and in tracks like "Dick Around" or "Waterproof", the best moments of Sparks' career so far. Beyond essential.--Thom Allott
Ron and Russell Mael present Hello Young Lovers
, their 20th album. To achieve such enormity and expansiveness Ron and Russell worked in a limitless vacuum for the best part of 18 months. The only inspiration taken from any current music was the provocation to go as far as possible in the opposite direction. When writing and recording their previous album Lil Beethoven, Sparks broke the rules, but in creating Hello Young Lovers the rule book has been thrown away.