When Sparks synth and guitar classics received a makeover from non-electrically powered instruments on Plagiarism, it seemed very much a one off, if immensely enjoyable, exercise. Now, five years on,they've revived the idea.
What makes Lil Beethoveen worthwhile and completely original though, is that virtually all the tracks sound like they were specifically written in a dance style, with the repetition of catchy phrases at the core. Russel must sing the title of My Baby's Taking Me Home 100 times, but the song shifts through so many key, instrumental, and vocal changes that it reels you in much more seductively than any mere chorus/verse/chorus composition.
And aside from the odd finale or chorus, there's no guitars, drums or synths on Lil Beethoven - not as we have come to know them on Sparks albums anyway! Instead we get lush orchestrations, some of Ron's most fluid piano, and whole choirs of Russel. It's completely original stuff, but unlike much of the so called experimental music that is interesting to listen to once or twice, Lil Beethoven is remarkably easy on the ear.
And just in case you miss them, the 20 or so pages of lyrics are worth a look too, featuring such pearls as "I married myself, we're very happy together, long long walks on the beach, lovely times."
Once again Sparks prove, as they did on Kimono My House and No.1 In Heaven, that pioneering music doesn't have to be hard work, for the listener at least. Makes you wonder what their contempories are all messing about at.