And as many genres
September 7, 2011 8:24 AM   Subscribe

Ask not for whom the banhammer falls...
posted by tommasz at 8:27 AM on September 7, 2011

"Zoo time
Is She and You time …"
posted by Rumple at 8:32 AM on September 7, 2011

I love his IF work, and his pop culture blogging, but I really, really wish Adam Cadre would write a large, cohesive work again. Even though I (repeatedly) read Ready, Okay my senior year in high school, it was a formative experience of my teenage years.
posted by griphus at 8:32 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this. I've been notionally-speaking a Sparks fan ever since I saw them perform "Mickey Mouse" on an old SNL rerun, and I've listened to a handful of other tracks, but wasn't exactly sure of where to start in their discography.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:49 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yay! Always happy to see a favorite but largely unknown band get its due on the Blue.
posted by kinnakeet at 8:57 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Every time Sparks comes up, I swear they're a joke band that someone has created an elaborate fictional history (like "Cups and Cakes" era Spinal Tap).
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:00 AM on September 7, 2011 [5 favorites]

"Number One Song in Heaven" is merely 'quite good'? Absurd man! Stop him!
posted by robself at 9:00 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Didn't Sparks self-link here once like 5 years ago?
posted by nathancaswell at 9:01 AM on September 7, 2011

psst, nathancaswell... check out the last link in the post.
posted by koeselitz at 9:02 AM on September 7, 2011

I loved them on Gilmore Girls. Incidentally, this is the first band I saw live as a teenager. Felony opened for them, and Jane Wiedlin joined them for their Outer Space songs.
posted by Chuffy at 9:15 AM on September 7, 2011

posted by nathancaswell at 9:16 AM on September 7, 2011

Love Sparks.

I was just pointing out to someone on the G+ that the brothers Mael were featured in the 70s movie Rollercoaster (mentioned in the link) which was filmed at Six Flag's Magic Mountain in Valencia, where they also used to play shows all the time.
posted by eyeballkid at 9:26 AM on September 7, 2011

I saw them on SNL when I was 14 and I had no idea what I was seeing. I bought Angst and loved it. Thanks for posting this list. These guys are like Zappa, it's hard to know where to start.

Oh yeah, I love the version of Sherlock Holmes by the mighty Dirtbombs.
posted by zzazazz at 9:33 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Sparks Project on (run by MetaFilter's own Rev. Sun Myung Me) is another career-long batch of Sparks album reviews. I heart Sparks.
posted by BoringPostcards at 9:40 AM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

It is really great to see them getting the recognition they deserve for their groundbreaking, inspiring music, which the Beatles (another good band) or Jesus (the messiah) might be compared to.
posted by Thermos Blear at 10:00 AM on September 7, 2011

Yay! Thanks for pimping it so I don't have to! 8)
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 10:00 AM on September 7, 2011

Also, Gratuitous Sax as the worst Sparks album?! Cadre's HIGH.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 10:14 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

To be fair, there's a decent amount of competition for worst Sparks album.

(For me, his sin is rating Whomp over Angst; Angst is probably their second- or third-greatest album; Whomp is a disappointing set of meh-rockers with a few hits.)
posted by klangklangston at 10:18 AM on September 7, 2011

They were one of the most insanely original bands ever and were awesome in every way. Then they were a shitty disco band. The end.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:23 AM on September 7, 2011

Sys Rq, you are high on glue. No. 1 Song In Heaven is fantastic and beautiful the whole song through.
posted by klangklangston at 10:24 AM on September 7, 2011

No 1. In Heaven is an awesome album. How can you not like the title track or "Tryouts for the Human Race"?

For me, the worst album is EASILY Interior Design. So, so forgettable.

I suppose second worst might be Seduction of Ingmar Bergman, but that's more because it's not really a Sparks album per se as a radio play, so it's really hard to judge that way. If we're keeping it to the normal albums, probably Pulling Rabbits out of a Hat (though the title track on that one is real catchy).
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 11:07 AM on September 7, 2011

The first time I heard Sparks was in Oona's in Harvard Square. I remember my friend and I looking at each other in wonderment at the lyrics of 'Dick Around,' and HISTORY WAS MADE I mean no, I bought a bunch of albums.
posted by zusty at 11:09 AM on September 7, 2011

(Oh, here is a link to the youtubes: Dick Around)
posted by zusty at 11:11 AM on September 7, 2011

I haven't checked out what they've been doing in a while so I was completely unprepared for the video to "Dick Around". A four-minute rock opera. With lolcats.
posted by egypturnash at 11:47 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Let me point out that "under the table with you" may have been the best song of that decade.
posted by tomswift at 11:53 AM on September 7, 2011

You have no idea how thrilled I was when I stumbled across a karoke version of "This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us" on Usenet a few years ago.

"They fucking made a Sparks karaoke tune? Sweet!"
posted by grubi at 12:42 PM on September 7, 2011

I have sung 'This Town Ain't Big Enough' in a karaoke bar. Yeah, so I have a weird singing voice. It's a great song to watch people's faces as they read the lyrics--a mix of 'So that's what the words are!' and 'That's weirder than what I thought the words were!'

A new Sparks album is never less than interesting, and the brothers are very cool. Back before he got fired by the BBC, Jonathan Ross regularly had them as guests on his Radio 2 show, and it was always worth making sure one was close to a radio for it.
posted by Hogshead at 12:49 PM on September 7, 2011

I have to give props to my high school math teacher (geometry and trig), Mr Sanders, who gave me a copy of Propaganda on tape, saying "I think you'll like this."

Yes. Yes, I do. Even attempted a cover of "Reinforcements" myself.
posted by grubi at 12:55 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

I remember first seeing this amazing video in this 80s dance club in Houston and spent months trying to figure who did it. When I tracked down that it was The Sparks, I suddenly started finding their LPs everywhere (I have about 8 from just browsing through thrift stores). When I reconnected with them recently, I was blown away by Lil Beethoven.
I cannot get enough of these brothers. Amazing videos, amazing vocals!
posted by hillabeans at 2:07 PM on September 7, 2011

I've been a fairly big fan of Sparks since I first encountered them. I believe I ran into a late night broadcast of one of their concerts from whatever tour coincided with Angst In My Pants and was really taken by "Micky Mouse," "Eaten By The Monster of Love" and "Mustache." I owned a bunch of their 80's albums on cassette then missed their 90's input (at the time) and FELL IN FRIKEN LOVE with Lil Beethoven, Hello, Young Loves and Exotic Creatures of the Deep.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:27 PM on September 7, 2011

Oh, man. Sparks.

When they started out at Bash-n-The-Code, I thought they were really a lot of fun. Total 80s pop vibe, really captured the spirit of the times. I completely supported that, and still think that their Big Mouth album is totally fun, even if it is a bit heavy on the Jesus stuff. He Says is remarkably Cyndi Lauper in its execution.

But then Greg and Rebecca Sparks split off and created Sparks, one of the truly intelligent Christian rock groups. They had songs which expressed doubt and struggle, even if all that was always wrapped up and wiped away by the blood of Jesus by the end of the last verse. I still keep SPARKS and Through Flood And Fire in my iTunes music library even if I don't listen to them all that often. There are just some times when I seem to need a fix of what they have to offer. Such as You Can Count On Me. Great song.

Wait, what? We're talking about someone else entirely? Oh, how embarrassing.
posted by hippybear at 5:28 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wait, what? We're talking about someone else entirely? Oh, how embarrassing.

I know the feeling.
posted by Sparx at 5:57 PM on September 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

When I was young, I saw Sparks perform at the Santa Monica Civic Center on Dec 31 1976. At midnight, Russell bounded out onto stage wearing a diaper and a "1977" banner. Somewhat after that Ron threw his piano bench out into the crowd.
posted by ovvl at 6:13 PM on September 7, 2011

A conceptual rock-opera about Ingmar Bergman is totally cool in my mind.
posted by ovvl at 6:39 PM on September 7, 2011

Prior to this article I had only seen a couple of archival TOTP performances (and Metaphor once on the radio when it was released), but I am honestly shocked to learn that Sparks aren't an Austrian novelty group from ca. 1980. Instead they turn out to be the kind of thing I am very interested in finding out more about -- thanks for the post Iridic!
posted by rollick at 7:01 PM on September 7, 2011

The Brothers Mael also wrote the lyrics for the Telex album "Sex".

Their song "Haven't We Met Somewhere Before?" is reminiscent of Ionesco.
posted by fontor at 7:26 PM on September 7, 2011

Sparks is okay, but not good enough to name yourself after.

I sent Ron Mael a Christmas card a few years ago. I got it back 'return to sender', but I kept it because I wasn't convinced that it wasn't He who wrote 'return to sender' on the envelope.

Also, No Such Thing As A Bad Sparks Album. Or Song. That's why I don't like reading reviews of their albums. There's always someone trying to claim that such-and-such album is their 'weakest.' Whatever! Buy every album = be happy.
posted by Mael Oui at 8:25 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

These are not the ten best, but here are ten Sparks songs that are really worth listening to a million times each, in no order.

"This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us"
"Here In Heaven"
"Singing In The Shower" (with Rita Mitsouka)
"Good Morning"
"When Do I Get To Sing 'My Way?'"
"Cool Places" (with Jane Wiedlin)
"I Wish I Looked A Little Better"
"My Baby's Taking Me Home"
"Suburban Homeboy"
"All You Ever Think About Is Sex"
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:26 AM on September 8, 2011

Sparks was always one of those bands I read a lot about, but never actually heard. This post convinced me to rectify that situation by following Cadre's lead. "Beat The Clock" and its video were enough to convince me this was a good idea.

The ticking Moroder synths, perfectly-1979-coiffed models, and the weird-but-not-inaccessible artiness of it all just hit some kind of sweet spot for me. Also, RON MAEL.

This led to an afternoon seeking out any and all Sparks-related material on YouTube.

So, yeah. Sparks. They're good.
posted by anthom at 6:03 AM on September 8, 2011

"Lighten Up Morrissey"
posted by turbodog at 1:26 PM on September 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

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