Sparks: classic or dud?

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The only 70s band to evolve effortlessly from Glam to New Wave to New Romantic electro disco (making Bowie look hopelessly earthbound) OR just hopelessly pretentious and deservedly forgotten?

Guy, Monday, 30 April 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

I completely waive any attempt at being unbiased by simply noting that I have run the Sparks e-mail fan list since shortly after its birth in early 1995.

Classic doesn't begin to describe it. One of the most influential, entertaining and utterly hilarious groups ever does. And based on their shows last year, they can easily still cut it live.

Ned Raggett, Monday, 30 April 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

I'm making this one a Search & Destroy :

Search: the No. 1 In Heaven album (Sparks go disco !)

Destroy: most everything else, except maybe "Wonder Girl" and "Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth". The worst of Roxy Music crossed with the worst of Queen isn't my idea of a party. Good song titles, though.

Patrick, Monday, 30 April 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

In no particular order I would search: ‘Beat the clock’ 'This Town ain't big enough’ (obviously), ‘Amateur hour’, ‘Tryouts for the human race’, the 12" mix of ‘Music you can dance to’, "Girl from Germany’, ‘Talent is an asset’, ‘Propaganda’,

Destroy - ‘Looks, Looks, Looks’

But remember that this is NOT the topic!

I would suggest that Sparks are hopelessly over-rated by their fans and under-rated by everyone else.

Guy, Monday, 30 April 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

BEAT THE CLOCK + THIS TOWN AIN'T BIG ENOUGH - TOTAL CLASSIC - NEVER HEARD NO OTHER STUFF- WHY WOULD I NEED TO ?

APPEARANSEZ ON totp BROUGHT AN OTHERNESS INTO grS LIVING ROOM AS A CHILD - PRETENTIOUS ? - WELL THEY PULLED IT OFF GOODSTYLE

gEORDIE rACER, Monday, 30 April 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

A rather predictable answer from me, maybe, but for the early singles, "Falling In Love With Myself Again", "Thank God It's Not Christmas", "Equator", "At Home, At Work, At Play", "Alabamy Right", "Bon Voyage", the late 70s Moroder era and the mid-90s singles ... I'd have to say classic.

Robin Carmody, Monday, 30 April 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

I suspect that the lack of debate here is because only those who like Sparks know them. I find it hard to believe that they have complete critical approval at ILM.

Guy, Tuesday, 1 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

A few good questions have gone begging lately.

I'm kind of trying to formulate my answer - there's things I like and don't like about them but I'm a bit fuzzyheaded on it this AM.

Tom, Tuesday, 1 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

My dad has always hated Sparks, equating them somehow with homosexual pedophilia. I can't explain the connection either, but it just feels right. Sparks fans are creepy. Of course, that doesn't change the fact that their disco songs are unparalleled.

Wait, did they have some kind of connection with Ayn Rand? They seem like that kind of band.

Chris H., Sunday, 6 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

"Well I was born a little premature...." I mean. And I did see some out-and-out flamers in the East Village doing Young Girls about a month ago - well not, um... anyway, they were singing it "Young boys..." So your dad's not alone in his interpretation. For the record I had never even heard of them until everyone started playing Beat the Clock for Y2K. Guess they didn't fit the boring narrow doorway of the American charts.

Tracer Hand, Monday, 7 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

seven months pass...
Sparks' first five albums - "Halfnelson"/"Sparks", "A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing," "Kimono My House," "Propaganda," and the brilliant, "difficult" "Indiscreet" - are near-perfect. After those giddy heights, I lose interest...

My two cent's worth, friends.

Laura N.

Laura N., Monday, 24 December 2001 01:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

You don't like "No. 1 in Heaven" at all? I agree with pretty much everything else you said, though, Laura. Giddy heights, yup. Didn't completely lose interest, though--there's the occasional decent single-"Funny Face", "Mickey Mouse", "Tips for Teens".

Your Andrew WK comparison on that other thread has really got me going. I wonder when it's coming out here in the

Arthur, Tuesday, 25 December 2001 01:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

one year passes...
Revival time as they're back on top form. Ron wiping the floor with Lamaar on NMTB, Russell looking cool in black.

Lil' Beethoven, I've just discovered is one of the overlooked gems of last year. Any band who can make a record that fuses John Adams with showtunes and Randy Newman/Stephin Merritt's acerbic wit, is one to treasure. The titles alone are better than most bands careers.

Billy Dods (Billy Dods), Wednesday, 19 March 2003 22:31 (nineteen years ago) link

I can't really answer, as I'm still exploring this band. At the moment I only have their early stuff (ie nothing beyond Indiscreet), but so far I've found them to be complete, and total classic. SO much fun! Such wonderful melodies! This is what pop should be all about.

I've heard a few of the later songs, the "When do I get to sing 'My Way'" hit was a song I considered a guilty pleasure when I was younger, now it's just a pleasure. I have MP3s of some of the late70s Moroder material, and it certainly seems like a good time, though it took me a while to get into it. I particularly enjoy "Tryouts For The Human Race".

I gave the last two albums instore listens recently. "Balls" didn't seem like something for me, not really any melodies or anything that made my nostrils twitch. "Lil' Beethoven" seemed like it -might- be great fun. I didn't dare to buy it at the time though, as I was already spending far too much money.

I'll write "classic" on a post-it note and stick it to them for now, hopefully I can eventually glue it 'em.

Btw, "Tits" = The most depressing mammary-song of all time (yes, let's ignore that 'tits' aren't really what it's about as such, but hey!)

Øystein Holm-Olsen (Øystein H-O), Thursday, 20 March 2003 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I love them like the Pet Shop Boys in that their last albums have each contained one of their best songs of their whole career ('Suburban Homeboy' and 'Try It (I'm in love with a married man)'), and I just love them full stop because... oh too many reasons. And yes, Ron was fantastic on the dogawful NMTB. I want to look as fantastic as him when I'm however old he is - no, fuck it I want to look like him now.

Ian SPACK (Ian SPACK), Thursday, 20 March 2003 01:09 (nineteen years ago) link

classic as hell.

roger adultery (roger adultery), Thursday, 20 March 2003 05:55 (nineteen years ago) link

I dont get Sparks at all!

girl scout heroin (iamamonkey), Thursday, 20 March 2003 06:01 (nineteen years ago) link

Your loss. ;-)

Ned Raggett (Ned), Thursday, 20 March 2003 06:15 (nineteen years ago) link

In Outer Space so perfectly captured a time/aesthetic. totally clever/functional pop.

Mr. Diamond (diamond), Thursday, 20 March 2003 07:31 (nineteen years ago) link

Worked w/ Moroder therefore classic, and I am becoming the Eurodisco Geir Hongro

dave q, Thursday, 20 March 2003 11:03 (nineteen years ago) link

CLASSIC! Though I prefer the older more complicated stuff (I like complication), even their stupid stuff is great, and the Moroder songs are glimmering gems. Whoever said their fans are creepy, I must regretfully agree, though that probably includes me by default. Can't wait to see Turbonegro's audience!

matt riedl (veal), Thursday, 20 March 2003 19:40 (nineteen years ago) link

would anyone say that "profile: the ult. sparks collection" is a good place to start with them? have not explored them at all but am interested...

marcg (marcg), Thursday, 20 March 2003 20:03 (nineteen years ago) link

I'd say grab all the songs I've got shared on Soulseek but if you can't do that then yeah a Sparks best of is bound to have some brilliance on.

Ian SPACK (Ian SPACK), Thursday, 20 March 2003 22:01 (nineteen years ago) link

three years pass...
Big Beat reissue came out. Six bonus tracks..

I Want To Hold Your Hand
England
Gone With The Wind
Intrusion/Confusion
Looks Aren't Everything
Tearing The Place Apart

...

When is Introducing Sparks going to get reissued? This is the one I'm missing now.

gwynywdd dwnyt fyrwr byychydd gww (donut), Tuesday, 24 October 2006 01:53 (sixteen years ago) link

is "Throw Her Away (And Get A New One)" supposed to just end cold?

gwynywdd dwnyt fyrwr byychydd gww (donut), Tuesday, 24 October 2006 02:08 (sixteen years ago) link

Last I checked.

I think most of those bonus tracks were on earlier reissues. I'm not all that hyped over these as a result, though if they fixed the terrible sound on Kimono My House I'll snag that.

As for Introducing Sparks, don't hold your breath. It has never been officially been released on CD and there is no impetus for it to be beyond the yearning of the hardest of hardcore fans -- and even most of them (HI DERE) think it's a very subpar release.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Tuesday, 24 October 2006 03:18 (sixteen years ago) link

I just wandered into an instant Sparks LP collection courtesy of my local used record store - Introducing... on red DJ promo vinyl, Kimono My House, Indiscreet, Whomp That Sucker, Angst In My Pants, and #1 In Heaven. total of around $35. This is all exciting because I have never been able to find this stuff - prior to this the only records I've heard have been Propaganda and the new In The Red album. Those already make them classic for sure.

so far w/my new finds I have really liked Kimono and #1 In Heaven. The one song I did play from Introducing... was indeed bad.

haven't listened to Indiscreet at all yet!

sleeve version 2.0 (sleeve testing), Tuesday, 24 October 2006 03:33 (sixteen years ago) link

These were listed as previous unreleased as of this year for this Big Beat reissue (which I just listened to, and it's great. Not their best, but definitely does not suck.):

Intrusion/Confusion
Looks Aren't Everything
Tearing The Place Apart

Not sure about the other reissues. I got everything else, and if they're the same bonus tracks than the Island or whatever ones, then I won't convert.

gwynywdd dwnyt fyrwr byychydd gww (donut), Tuesday, 24 October 2006 03:42 (sixteen years ago) link

I should add these three songs are REALLY good, not to be all "you have to get these or else", but it's really a shame they never were released until now.. they battle the stronger album tracks imho.

gwynywdd dwnyt fyrwr byychydd gww (donut), Tuesday, 24 October 2006 03:42 (sixteen years ago) link

I just double checked and "Tearing the Place Apart" was definitely on the earlier Big Beat reissue along with "Gone With the Wind," so who knows? Perhaps an alternate version? (The Sparks list has generally been a bit nonplussed with these reissues in terms of bonus content, I've noted.)

"Tearing" and "Gone" were both outtakes from Indiscreet, I should note, which is one reason why I like them better than The Big Beat tracks in general. ;-)

Ned Raggett (Ned), Tuesday, 24 October 2006 03:57 (sixteen years ago) link

ten months pass...

okay so i finally bought a sparks record -- "indiscreet"

it's pretty amazing, they don't make 'em like this anymore, and they never did.

i can't even really understand how you sit down in a studio and come out with a record that sounds like this...so amazingly poppy, yet strange and overwrought (in a good way)...i can't really even compare this stuff to anything else...maybe like "virginia plain" or something...but yeah this is different, pretty unique.

all of which isn't very insightful i'm sure but anyway, yay sparks!!!!!

M@tt He1ges0n, Wednesday, 19 September 2007 19:06 (fifteen years ago) link

Hehehe, a VERY good choice for a first album, I have to say. Splashy in the best possible way.

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 19 September 2007 19:08 (fifteen years ago) link

what should i get next?

i always remember kimono my house cuz of the funny title, is that one good?

M@tt He1ges0n, Wednesday, 19 September 2007 19:11 (fifteen years ago) link

Kimono My House is glammier

Shakey Mo Collier, Wednesday, 19 September 2007 19:14 (fifteen years ago) link

(ie more guitar and a little heavier)

the middle ground and my personal favorite of the glam-trio is definitely Propaganda (love that sleeve!)

Shakey Mo Collier, Wednesday, 19 September 2007 19:15 (fifteen years ago) link

kimono is their best

Zeno, Wednesday, 19 September 2007 19:15 (fifteen years ago) link

of the Moroder era No. 1 Song in Heaven is the one to get.

Shakey Mo Collier, Wednesday, 19 September 2007 19:15 (fifteen years ago) link

these guys really have a way with awesome album covers!

M@tt He1ges0n, Wednesday, 19 September 2007 19:18 (fifteen years ago) link

I got all their records through "Lost in Space" in Amsterdam for like $2 apiece several years ago - the two early ones on Rundgren's label are good little glampop slices as well ("Girl From Germany" is high-larious), Viscontin definitely upped the ante arrangement-wise tho. The Morodoer stuff is on a whole other level. By the time they hit the 80s things were getting a little spotty but there's always at least a few really great, clever singles on the albums.

Shakey Mo Collier, Wednesday, 19 September 2007 19:24 (fifteen years ago) link

Echoing the above, Kimono and Number One -- I'd also suggest Angst In My Pants for the eighties incarnation and the last two, Li'l Beethoven and Hello Young Lovers.

Oh BTW, seems as good a place to mention that Introducing Sparks -- actually their *seventh* album (long story) -- is finally getting an official CD release in a month or so.

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 19 September 2007 19:49 (fifteen years ago) link

No love for "Whomp That Sucker"? A slight return to their glam days, "Tips for Teens" and "That's Not Nastasia" are great.

everything, Wednesday, 19 September 2007 19:57 (fifteen years ago) link

Indiscreet was my first, too, and from there I think I backtracked to Propaganda. Can't go wrong with Kimono, either, and if you like the "holy trinity," those first two are ridiculously brilliant early works. (Agreed, Visconti's production found a way to channel the weirdness of the first two a bit.)

Dan Peterson, Wednesday, 19 September 2007 19:57 (fifteen years ago) link

Whomp That Sucker also has "Mustache", right...? that song is great.

Shakey Mo Collier, Wednesday, 19 September 2007 20:20 (fifteen years ago) link

Moustache is on "Angst In My Pants," also a pretty good Sparks record overall.

Dan Peterson, Wednesday, 19 September 2007 20:40 (fifteen years ago) link

Forget the old stuff, for the time being anyway, next get Lil' Beethoven and then Hello Young Lovers.

Billy Dods, Wednesday, 19 September 2007 21:01 (fifteen years ago) link

I really really like Hello Young Lovers! All other recommendations seconded as well.

sleeve, Wednesday, 19 September 2007 23:28 (fifteen years ago) link

I felt like a theif, getting Propoganda and #1 Song in Heaven for a $3 each from a used store recently.

I eat cannibals, Wednesday, 19 September 2007 23:59 (fifteen years ago) link

thief even.

I eat cannibals, Wednesday, 19 September 2007 23:59 (fifteen years ago) link

I play the first five quite often, but while I like some songs here and there, I'm not too into any of the later stuff. I've played Lil Beethoven way too much, trying to make it "click". I'm not big on keyboard-orchestras.

Anyways, I'm really just posting to put this here
http://graphikdesigns.free.fr/sparks-propaganda-cover/sparks-propaganda-rear.jpg

Øystein, Thursday, 20 September 2007 09:42 (fifteen years ago) link

She was supposed to star in the film they were trying to make, wasn't she?

Halfway there but for you, Tuesday, 2 November 2021 20:38 (one year ago) link

they lost their mojo many times and got it back

The film is pretty clear about this without beating them up about it - it's more interested in how always doing something different next time sometimes pays off for them and sometimes doesn't. (Plus the fact that they haven't made a bad record since the '80s and have been solidly great for the past two decades means that there's not much to bemoan in the last hour!)

the drummer crying was really odd. she wasn't even with the band at the time!

Christi Hardon worked with them consistently through this period as one of the many lost projects that the film doesn't cover; Russell discovered her working the makeup counter of a department store, and they spent years trying to reboot the svengali side of their career (the previous instances also not covered in the film) with her as a front-woman. Haydon's stint as their "drummer" was basically them not having any other collaborators but wanting to present as a band on European TV appearances - note that she pretty much just played a couple of standing syndrums.

bobo honkin' slobo babe (sic), Tuesday, 2 November 2021 20:45 (one year ago) link

This interview with her is interesting.

Kim Kimberly, Tuesday, 2 November 2021 20:49 (one year ago) link

ok that part I might have missed. the caption just says she was the Sparks drummer from 1994-1996. I guess it would have made sense that she met them through that film, since they don't say otherwise how she got involved with the group. still a weird moment because there's not really a range of emotion in the film. the Maels themselves don't say anything about it! and obviously very little of this stuff they were working on 24/7 for five years ever came out. though I imagine that's what a lot of the bonus tracks on the 3-disc Gratuitous Sax reissue are?

frogbs, Tuesday, 2 November 2021 20:50 (one year ago) link

The film is pretty clear about this without beating them up about it - it's more interested in how always doing something different next time sometimes pays off for them and sometimes doesn't. (Plus the fact that they haven't made a bad record since the '80s and have been solidly great for the past two decades means that there's not much to bemoan in the last hour!)

right but it's kind of presented as a commercial thing, like "they were out of step with the times" or "it was too weird for their audience". they made some bad records. and in fact they seemed to come when they *weren't* trying anything new.

frogbs, Tuesday, 2 November 2021 21:00 (one year ago) link

xxpost That interview is great.

The link in the interview leads to this interview with page 3 stunna Linda Lusardi, appears from it that Tsui Hark was going to direct 'Mai The Psychic Girl'.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ab2JoGRgFe4

Dan Worsley, Tuesday, 2 November 2021 21:14 (one year ago) link

Even now, their lives are so private there's nothing known about how they are when stood down. You just assume they live apart (being adults) but family is not even a mystery, there's nothing. Russell having dated Jane Wiedlin is as deep as it gets.

I assume Ned is on nodding terms w/them, so if he's had the red light then I guess nobody will.

Mark G, Tuesday, 2 November 2021 21:18 (one year ago) link

they adopted a more conventional and "state of the art" sound using modern keyboards which sound like total garbage

like you say, this was trying something new for them! it just turned out that, as with “going rock” when punk was happening, it didn’t complement their own style, or Ron’s writing interests at the time.

(often, giving themselves genre or style boundaries pays off fantastically, as with the Moroder album, Li’l Beethoven’s repetition & faux-classical pretensions, Bergman leading to Annette, the one-off attempt at writing a song with Kapranos almost immediately turning into a whole band - so it’s more that these tries didn’t spark than that they aimed to sell out and fucked it up.)

bobo honkin' slobo babe (sic), Tuesday, 2 November 2021 21:19 (one year ago) link

I was surprised at seeing him as a not-so-skinny jock teenager.

That would be Russell, not Ron.

Ned Raggett, Tuesday, 2 November 2021 21:23 (one year ago) link

appears from it that Tsui Hark was going to direct 'Mai The Psychic Girl'

Yup, this was mentioned at the time -- liner notes for the early 1990s Profile 2 CD best-of on Rhino drew that connection, and is also why there's a later song featuring him on GS&SV called, of course, "Tsui Hark."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5cYZnKpEBE

I assume Ned is on nodding terms w/them, so if he's had the red light then I guess nobody will.

We've met at larger events briefly and they remember me from when I ran the online fan discussion list (when such things were novel) from the mid-90s into the 2000s; Russell at least lurked there in deep cover, and I've interviewed him briefly once or twice. I claim nothing more than that; however, their manager Sue, who was featured in the documentary, and I have chatted off and on more regularly. Again, my book idea was just a wild hair; I hadn't even gotten around to an initial note of inquiry to her before I read that Russell quote and quietly ditched it.

sic is generally OTM there in terms of what works/what doesn't for Sparks, and there really is no question the late 80s was a dry gulch for them. It's worth noting that the arc could have even gotten more exhaustive because they very much did release work pre-GS&SV in the 1990s; I specifically remember reading Simon Price's interview with them in late 1993 when this one-off single with Fini Tribe came out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Iz53uzlNls

Including that would have slightly undercut the lengthy lull period that the documentary was establishing...but in turn would have made a long film even longer!

There's two hours of extras via the Blu-ray, FWIW, and that's not even including the separate full-length concert!

Ned Raggett, Tuesday, 2 November 2021 21:32 (one year ago) link

Blimey, gonna have to plump for that one. Who knows, a certain UK TV pop quiz show appearance...

(then again, last I heard it was 'missing believed wiped')

Mark G, Tuesday, 2 November 2021 22:06 (one year ago) link

The Rhino set is so good and I wish it was still in print instead of the inferior movie soundtrack

licorice in the front, pizza in the rear (Whiney G. Weingarten), Tuesday, 2 November 2021 22:19 (one year ago) link

The liner notes alone! Amazing details.

Ned Raggett, Tuesday, 2 November 2021 22:36 (one year ago) link

This interview with her is interesting.🕸


This interview confirms a bit what I detected in the movie that maybe she was also in a romantic relationship with one of them.

A Pile of Ants (Boring, Maryland), Wednesday, 3 November 2021 00:24 (one year ago) link

The more distance I have from this doc... the more I hate it! Edgar Wright sux!

kurt schwitterz, Wednesday, 3 November 2021 04:35 (one year ago) link

It rocks and I just saw One Night in Soho and that rocked too

licorice in the front, pizza in the rear (Whiney G. Weingarten), Wednesday, 3 November 2021 05:45 (one year ago) link

*Last Night in Soho

licorice in the front, pizza in the rear (Whiney G. Weingarten), Wednesday, 3 November 2021 05:45 (one year ago) link

one night in soho makes a dead girl humble

bobo honkin' slobo babe (sic), Wednesday, 3 November 2021 05:51 (one year ago) link

Felt blatantly not in depth about the Maels, outside of the beginning and a bit at the end, which ends up being frustrating. It was like watching a really great VH1 “Behind the Music” stretched out.

Western® with Bacon Flavor, Wednesday, 3 November 2021 06:15 (one year ago) link

that feels deliberate. they don't really lead rock star kind of lives, they don't drink nor do drugs and by most accounts they're pretty nice people. their personal lives might not be all that interesting.

frogbs, Wednesday, 3 November 2021 12:51 (one year ago) link

B-b-but Ron dated Edith Piaf - how could their personalizes not be interesting?!

henry s, Wednesday, 3 November 2021 13:33 (one year ago) link

Meantime it was a delight to be tagged in this post and to realize that years back I'd help make another fan:

https://www.instagram.com/p/CV1BpyaFoUq/

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 3 November 2021 22:02 (one year ago) link

I knew v little about them going in (didnt even know they weren’t English)

i found the documentary illuminating in the sense of their perseverance and the full scope of their career. that aspect was quite incredible

but at the same time, the trainspotting-ness of the documentary also turned me off after a while. too precious? too knowing? too specific? idk. somehow i felt like the doc was trying to ~convince~ me to like them rather than illustrating more why they are loved. it felt like if a friend was playing me their albums & sitting next to me the whole time watching for any reaction. like “eh? pretty good huh?” which is very offputting in any setting lol

a few songs caught my attention, but by and large i find their music still sits at a distance, personally - i think mainly because the style is very removed from what i’m used to i guess? the dissonance & repetition & russell’s odd way of singing reminds me of a carnival funhouse

terminators of endearment (VegemiteGrrl), Thursday, 4 November 2021 04:45 (one year ago) link

that's the way most music docs are though right? but yeah and it does get a little overbearing at the end. it's 2+ hours of "these guys are great" and then 10 more minutes of "in conclusion, they are great". they do entertain ideas of why people may not like them but it's kind of phrased as listeners being not ready or possibly homophobic. there's another possibility - Sparks can be really fucking annoying. most people I've played 'em for like them while a few others break out in hives. I mean, you're right, it's circus music.

the other thing about that is as a newcomer there's not really a lot of indication of what their good and bad albums are, it's all presented as "wow so clever!" like for me a huge part of their story is Li'l Beethoven and "Dick Around" and how they were arguably doing their best and most innovative work some 35 years on. they do mention that it's particularly good but its couched in the same language that's used to describe basically all their albums

speaking of, I wished they'd spent more time on that concert series where they played every single album in full. is there good footage of it? did some people actually go to every show? it's such a crazy endeavor for a band to embark on.

frogbs, Thursday, 4 November 2021 18:15 (one year ago) link

Somebody wrote a book about seeing every show, but the excerpt I read was more like "thoughts that occurred to me during the weeks I spent seeing the Sparks Spectacular".

Halfway there but for you, Thursday, 4 November 2021 18:20 (one year ago) link

THAT part of their story was a doc of its own. What a mammoth, crazy undertaking!

terminators of endearment (VegemiteGrrl), Thursday, 4 November 2021 20:32 (one year ago) link

I think there were quite a few that watched every night online, so...

(Ned?)

Mark G, Thursday, 4 November 2021 20:34 (one year ago) link

A few years ago someone put together this 11-hour compilation video of most of the footage that could be found:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHXPajDSZ24

Pretty sure the vast majority of it is from livestreams that people captured at the time. The streams were pretty low quality, but I think this is the best we've got.

Somebody wrote a book about seeing every show, but the excerpt I read was more like "thoughts that occurred to me during the weeks I spent seeing the Sparks Spectacular".

Yeah, the whole book was like that. Can't recommend it.

Vaguely Threatening CAPTCHAs, Thursday, 4 November 2021 21:01 (one year ago) link

how many animation interstitials were in this thing? and weren't there like 5 different styles? lol i remember claymation and like squiggle vision and a few more. anyway the number #1 sign of a lazy doc is animated interstitials.

kurt schwitterz, Thursday, 4 November 2021 21:12 (one year ago) link

the Cyriak video for "The Existential Threat" is kinda interesting in that regard since Sparks have used that same kind of style for their videos (and indeed, it's all over this) but obviously nowhere near as well nor as freaky as Cyriak does. that video has 5.5 million views and seems to have introduced yet another new group of young folks to the band. alas, it probably came out too late to be mentioned in the documentary

frogbs, Thursday, 4 November 2021 21:16 (one year ago) link

I think there were quite a few that watched every night online, so...

(Ned?)

Only missed one webcast!

Ned Raggett, Thursday, 4 November 2021 21:37 (one year ago) link

whoa

terminators of endearment (VegemiteGrrl), Thursday, 4 November 2021 23:53 (one year ago) link

Just finished. More so than anything else, this felt the movie version of a 120 page liner notes book from an exhaustive career-spanning box set.

I liked the animations.

Precious, Grace, Hill & Beard LTD. (C. Grisso/McCain), Friday, 5 November 2021 00:29 (one year ago) link

I also just watched this and, unlike most career-spanning docs, I appreciate the time and detail Edgar put into the later years of material. I guess the whole point is that they've never stopped and remain vital, but most docs cut off when boomers or gen x'ers stopped caring and then just rush through from that point to the present in five minutes.

Also, Ron Mael is now my favorite person in the world.

Ⓓⓡ. (Johnny Fever), Friday, 5 November 2021 04:21 (one year ago) link

I love that his daily driver is a Volkswagen Thing.

Precious, Grace, Hill & Beard LTD. (C. Grisso/McCain), Friday, 5 November 2021 04:57 (one year ago) link

two months pass...

I'll see this sooner or later, but these descriptions sound terrible.

― Halfway there but for you, Thursday, June 24, 2021 8:02 PM (seven months ago) bookmarkflaglink

Seen it, am actually mostly satisfied.
Stylistically, there was such a variety of visual approaches and material, and the pace was kept fast enough, that things like the animation or the vintage B&W "commentary" inserts didn't bother me, it was just another 2 or 3 seconds until something else showed up. Also, it wasn't really an "exploration" of each of the albums, they're just signposts so you don't say, "wait, what decade are we in again"? Also, keeping the pace so fast allows for the very unusual sequence of the 1988 to 1995 era, where the pace is deliberately slowed down instead of sped up.
I think it was true to the "Sparks ethos" inasmuch as everything - Ron and Russell talking, performance footage, celebrity testimonials - was presented as if in quotes, like "here's the bit where we self-consciously echo the things you've seen in dozens of these documentaries".

Do the Maels or their fans in the film admit that any of the records were sub-standard?

― Halfway there but for you, Friday, June 25, 2021 4:28 PM (seven months ago) bookmarkflaglink

I think the only one that really gets critiqued this way is Pulling Rabbits Out of a Hat? Even Interior Design (which I quite like) has someone saying something nice about it.

Halfway there but for you, Tuesday, 25 January 2022 18:02 (one year ago) link

I’m not a big enough fan to read this thread to see if this is already covered, but the thing that struck me the most about the documentary is that the Sparks guys made it pretty clear that they were only willing to make a documentary if it went against traditional rock documentary standards and then went on to deliver a relatively conventional rock documentary.

zacata, Tuesday, 25 January 2022 21:53 (one year ago) link

I wonder if the fact that they were making Annette at around the same time made them less inclined to press that point - knowing that they were making their mark in a Proper Film, it might have been less important to have their rock doc be as odd as they themselves can be.

Halfway there but for you, Tuesday, 25 January 2022 21:59 (one year ago) link

I think most Sparks fans will admit that not all their albums are good but yeah Pulling Rabbits seems to be the only one that's universally derided. Last year I decided to listen to all of Sparks' albums and it struck me that their songwriting was actually a lot more consistent than I'd remembered. The relative quality of the albums has more to do with the arrangements & production. That's why Kimono & Propaganda are universally regarded as classics, they had such a powerful glam/prog/power pop sound that just fills the room. Likewise No. 1 in Heaven still feels like it's from the future, it's so crisp and propulsive. And of course their modern albums all sound great & have intricate and full arrangements. On the other hand on their bad albums it's not just the songs, it's that they sound like garbage. Mostly those post-band 80s ones which either sound incredibly thin or have that stupidly loud reverb/choral effect on everything. Even Big Beat suffers from this, sounding like it was recorded in a shoebox.

But the songs themselves are generally salvageable. Check out the Plagiarism, particularly "Pulling Rabbits Out of a Hat", which re-envisions the song as if it was written during the Li'l Beethoven sessions (though that album was still 5 years away!) - it's totally massive and honestly one of my favorites on the whole disc

frogbs, Tuesday, 25 January 2022 22:09 (one year ago) link

Now that I think about it I'm surprised Plagiarism was barely mentioned - for one they got Mike Patton at the height of his fame, and that seems like a pretty significant influence. For two the direction they took on some of those tracks clearly pointed towards what they'd do for like...the entire 21st Century (so far). And yet in the documentary it's like..."eh, we had no ideas"

frogbs, Tuesday, 25 January 2022 22:12 (one year ago) link

I also tried listening to them all last year too, and stopped after slogging through Angst In My Pants, which at only 36 minutes seemed as long as Berlin Alexanderplatz.

Johnny Mathis der Maler (Boring, Maryland), Tuesday, 25 January 2022 22:14 (one year ago) link

Madness

Ned Raggett, Tuesday, 25 January 2022 23:13 (one year ago) link

As for Plagiarism, they've spoken before about how they were essentially talked into it, preferring not to look back in general. I think if it had just been a straight-up tribute album they'd be happy with it.

Ned Raggett, Tuesday, 25 January 2022 23:14 (one year ago) link

Do the Maels or their fans in the film admit that any of the records were sub-standard?

― Halfway there but for you

I remember a few years back they were asked which was the worst Sparks album and they both answered Terminal Jive. I think it was in some questionnaire in Uncut Magazine maybe?

kitchen person, Wednesday, 26 January 2022 01:46 (one year ago) link

one month passes...

Man, realized I forgot to post here about the LA show last month! Well, having seen that and last night's SF show to kick off the full tour, you absolutely want to go to this if you have even the slightest interest in the band. I've been seeing them regularly for a quarter of a century and every show has been great in its own way but both these recent shows were compact overviews of their whole career, and it's a great summary and perfect introduction to them if you're relatively new to them and a lovely retrospective if you're in deep like me. Ron dance in full effect of course, and Russell still has the pipes and energy to burn, not that I've ever seen him lack those. Good times for sure.

Ned Raggett, Saturday, 12 March 2022 20:43 (ten months ago) link

Aah, so jealous you got to see them at Disney Concert Hall! Definitely one of those times I was wishing I still lived in LA. I'll be seeing them next week at Big Ears though. Recent setlists look fantastic - I wish they were doing more from A Steady Drip, but hard to have any complaints about that song selection.

Vaguely Threatening CAPTCHAs, Monday, 14 March 2022 18:08 (ten months ago) link

two weeks pass...

Saw them in New York last night. Great to see them on a much bigger stage. You can tell they've tailored the setlist to please people who saw the movie, but I don't care, it's all good. And they seemed genuinely thrilled by the reception they got. They said that both a new album and another movie musical is on the way. Amazing.

Position Position, Tuesday, 29 March 2022 15:39 (ten months ago) link

I had to miss them in St. Paul, I was out of town. I love that they're doing "Under The Table With Her," one of my favoritest faves.

Three Rings for the Elven Bishop (Dan Peterson), Tuesday, 29 March 2022 15:50 (ten months ago) link

nine months pass...

They've signed to Island. 50 years after they last signed to Island. And a new album is coming 26 May (days before I see them in London).

you can see me from westbury white horse, Wednesday, 25 January 2023 01:09 (one week ago) link


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