How Did It Get There? I Don't Know.
September 12, 2017 2:16 PM   Subscribe

"Whatever happens with the charts will be frosting on the cake for us." Sparks are back in the UK Top 20 album chart for the first time in 42 years with their new album Hippopotamus. The album has been garnering generally excellent reviews. Videos for the title track, "What The Hell Is It This Time?" and the terrific "Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me)" (a stop-motion animation video) were released this past summer. Previously.
posted by Joey Michaels (27 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
Easily one of my favorite albums this year, and in the top 10 of Sparks albums overall for me. That's out of 23---24 if you count FFS---of which the majority are brilliant, most really good, and only one a clunker.

See if you can guess which is my least favorite.
Okay, it's "Interior Design"

I can't wait for them to play NYC next month!
posted by SansPoint at 2:26 PM on September 12 [2 favorites]


I had these guys all wrong - I thought they were sort of like Nantucket Sleigh Ride
posted by thelonius at 2:42 PM on September 12 [1 favorite]


Fantastic, thanks. Not half an hour ago Sparks (old Sparks) entered my field of view for the first time in years, and now this. Synchronicity FTW.
posted by stonepharisee at 2:42 PM on September 12 [1 favorite]


hehe, i can't wait to sink my teeth in this. edith piaf is my favorite of the three singles

i moved from usa to london recently. in the us, sparks felt like a well-kept secret ("you probably haven't heard of them, but they're big in europe...") so i did a double take when i saw ron mael staring at me from a poster at the tube station.

if you're new to the band, be sure to check out the sparks project, reviews of all the sparks albums (well, except hippopotamus) by two friends Alia & mefi's own Rev. Syung Myung Me.
posted by yaymukund at 3:09 PM on September 12 [4 favorites]


yaymukund: I’d do a double take if I found Ron Mael staring at me, from a poster or otherwise. The man can do creepy-eyes like nobody’s business.
posted by SansPoint at 3:12 PM on September 12 [2 favorites]


Their album with Franz Ferdinand a few years ago was fantastic. I'm looking forward to this.
posted by lmfsilva at 3:15 PM on September 12 [1 favorite]


(By which I meant, I thought they were kind of 1970's regional bar band road warriors who almost but not quite made it big. Apparently the band I was thinking of shortened their name ).
posted by thelonius at 3:20 PM on September 12 [2 favorites]


OMFG, in the back of my mind, "Sparks" triggered a flashback of 'I know them and I like them and I don't have a clue why...'. YouTube to the rescue, 'Angst in My Pants '. I did not now they were anything other than an 80's one-hit wonder. Mind-Blown.
posted by zengargoyle at 3:35 PM on September 12 [4 favorites]


Whatever else may be going on, Sparks are still producing. That's something.
posted by metagnathous at 3:46 PM on September 12 [1 favorite]


Check out the "previously" link for Rory Maninch's outstanding career retrospective of Sparks. Best of Metafilter.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:46 PM on September 12 [8 favorites]


And when Sparks was "an 80's one-hit wonder", they had already been wandering around the fringes of pop music for a decade (the UK one-hit referenced in the post was in 1975). But the 'Wacky New Wave' sub-genre of the '80s (B-52s, Oingo Boing, etc.) was happy to adopt the Mael brothers.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:46 PM on September 12 [4 favorites]


Point of order: Sparka were a multi-hit wonder in the UK in the 70's.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:51 PM on September 12


Ha! My vinyl copy of Hippopotamus arrived today! (I preordered it and have been listening to a download.)

Great timing, Joey Michaels!
posted by SansPoint at 4:48 PM on September 12 [2 favorites]


I never thought I'd see the day when I was MeFi's own!
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 5:13 PM on September 12 [7 favorites]


(FWIW, we'll probably do Hippopotamus in a few weeks once we've had time to digest it a bit. Also, for anyone in Seattle, Aila's also a stand-up comedian who's put together a few shows and whatnot. I don't know if she's got anything scheduled immediately, but she does a bunch of open mics too. She's awesome.)
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 5:17 PM on September 12 [4 favorites]


Yep, Sparks were never a one-hit wonder, they've been one of my favourites ever since my best friend introduced me to them 20 years ago and to think they've been together since before I was born. That's what I call continuity in life... Great!
posted by Laotic at 5:21 PM on September 12 [2 favorites]


I can't imagine what it takes to keep a band together for that long!

I saw The Bottle Rockets and Marshall Crenshaw earlier this year...the Bottle Rockets singer had a bit of pre-song banter about having kept going for like 25 years now - he and the drummer are original members - and part of it was saying, that's not like keeping The Rolling Stones going for 25 years, where your accounts wire huge monthly disbursements to your accounts.....it's perseverance. Maybe Sparks made more money than The Bottle Rockets, but, I guess, a hell of a lot less than The Stones.
posted by thelonius at 6:21 PM on September 12 [3 favorites]


thelonius: Well, the core of Sparks (and the only original members) are Ron and Russell Mael. That there's been only two regular members isn't too unusual. That they're brothers, though... How many bands of brothers stay together for 45 years?
posted by SansPoint at 6:30 PM on September 12 [3 favorites]


Thanks for posting this. I adore Sparks.
posted by nanook at 6:56 PM on September 12 [1 favorite]


Wow, it sounds great. Other than That Mrs. Lincoln How Was the Play should have been one of the singles/videos, I think it's even better than the ones they picked. And I haven't heard them all yet!
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 7:07 PM on September 12 [1 favorite]


Wow, it sounds great. Other than That Mrs. Lincoln How Was the Play should have been one of the singles/videos, I think it's better than the ones they picked.

I was thinking that when I heard Scandinavian Design.
posted by tclark at 7:26 PM on September 12 [2 favorites]


Holy poop this is amazing. I had no idea they had a new album ready.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:07 PM on September 12 [1 favorite]


Seeing them tomorrow night.

The new album is really strong, their time with Franz Ferdinand clearly did them a lot of good, in spite of the fact that the collaboration itself didn't work.
posted by daveje at 12:07 AM on September 13 [3 favorites]


The stand-out of the new tracks for me is What The Hell Is It This Time, which has parts where it sounds deliciously like a track from a mid-80s Wire album.

I've got tickets for Shepherds Bush in a couple of weeks. Can't wait.
posted by Hogshead at 12:32 AM on September 13 [1 favorite]


I love the bit where they talk about their brotherly relationship where neither of them gets to be front man. I think their interest in film, theatre and all things visual has a lot to do with this, because Sparks have never only been about the music. For reasons which are beyond me I've never looked at their Wikipedia page before, but it says here their name is a play on The Marx Brothers - make of that what you will.

Anyway, I went down the rabbit hole and came out with this little treasure - Russell "has a go" at karaoke.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 2:29 AM on September 13 [4 favorites]


Listening to it now. It's pretty damn good, and some of FF did rub off on them here and there.
posted by lmfsilva at 9:43 AM on September 14 [1 favorite]


They officially ended the week at #7 on the UK album chart. Good for them!
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:41 AM on September 16 [1 favorite]


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