Top critical review
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on 8 February 2009
The Sparky brothers had a lot to live up to when this album was released in 1980. They had added a jolt of wit and intelligence to the thriving 'disco' movement with their Moroder collaboration "Number 1 in Heaven" and punters were keen to see if there was more magic in the Mael well of inspiration. The answer, according to this album, was that there *was* more inspiration, but that basically Sparks were marking time until they regrouped in 1981 with the back-to-basics 'garage band' sound of "Whomp That Sucker".
Thus Terminal Jive continues the glossy production of the Moroder factory, adding more of the sanitized heavy metal guitars and punchy production from Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff" and downplaying the duppaduppaduppaduppaduppa "I Feel Love" synths of the Number 1 in Heaven album. On the opener "When I'm With You", this makes for sublime pop, as recognized by those connoisseurs of fine popular music... the French, who sent it to No. 1 for several decades and gave the Mael brothers an excuse for a France tour every year since 1980. "Just Because You Love Me" is also glorious and punchy, complete with false ending that's custom-made for the dance floor. "Young Girls" is musically a perfect three-minute pop song, although lyrically it sounds rather pervy, a fact that wasn't helped by the picture sleeve of the single version that showed a virginal young woman of indeterminate age. Bit of a lapse of judgement there, I think, chaps.
Apart from these, however, the musical quality-control seems to have slipped, and there are some real 'nice-words-shame-about-the-tune' moments on (what used to be) Side 2. An uninvited 'instrumental' version of "When I'm With You" completes the feeling that they'd really got enough stuff for a great EP but Virgin wanted another full album. The inclusion of a song called "Rock and Roll People In A Disco World" just confirmed the fact that they were playing in the studio with one eye on the EXIT signs.
Good job, then, that they parted company with the Moroder machine after recording this album and returned to their rougher, guitar-based roots... until their next dabble with dance about 6 years later, that is.
The CD remaster is fine, faithful to the original (compared with my vinyl copy anyway) but the absence of bonus tracks and the album's proportion of filler makes this a Sparky hiccup rather than a Sparks Inpirational Album. A must-have for fans, tho', for the 3 songs mentioned above.