Sparks – Interior Design

By 1988, Sparks were already nearly two decades into their career, and although their success had waned somewhat, they were still going strong. For their fifteenth album Interior Design, they were embracing the late 1980s sound just as they had embraced so many different genres previously.

The album opens with So Important, the opening single, and probably the catchiest track on here. What’s notable, though, is the lack of comedy from earlier releases. Neither this nor preceding album Music That You Can Dance To (1986) made the charts anywhere in the world, although both yielded some minor US dance hit singles.

Just Got Back from Heaven has a wry humour to it, and a lot of influence from Madonna‘s 1980s sound. By this period they were well in the swing (ha) of producing their own material, and they were both confident and competent, but just not quite tapping into the sound of the charts in time to make it themselves.

There’s a lot owing to their influences, though – Lots of Reasons sounds suspiciously like Devo, although honestly it’s better than most of the flowerpot-hatted group ever achieved.

Most of the tracks on here are good, but not great. You Got a Hold of My Heart and Love-O-Rama are entirely competent, the latter showing off some great late 1980s drumming, but none of these were ever going to change the world.

Side B introduces us to The Toughest Girl in Town, which wakes you up a bit with its enormous bass line, and Let’s Make Love is catchy, but still not particularly great. It would be easy to conclude that relatively little effort went into this album unfortunately. Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before just sounds like every other generic 1980s track at this point.

A Walk Down Memory Lane is next, a pleasant track which may have seen a little more effort, but still isn’t especially memorable. This is a short album, but by this stage it’s really starting to drag, unfortunately.

But then comes Madonna, the closing track on here, and one that shares literally nothing in common with the rest of the album. It’s catchier and more confident, and sees Sparks in one of their occasional flights of fantasy, dreaming of meeting Madonna and spending an evening with her. It’s an interesting closer, in that it almost shares more with the 1994 follow-up Gratuitous Sax and Senseless Violins than this album.

In fact, some of the most interesting material on here is hidden on the CD’s bonus tracks – although that does involve working your way through a lot of alternative versions of Madonna, you do eventually make your way to the lovely The Big Brass Ring, the instrumental that appeared as a b-side to So Important. And right at the end, the extended mix of So Important is worth hearing too.

This was the album before Sparks‘ first extended hiatus, as they returned to their near-native Hollywood to try to make a film, a musical version of a manga comic. It is tempting to wonder whether they saw themselves drifting into less exciting areas at this point, or whether they just wanted to do something different. But on balance, Interior Design isn’t bad; it’s just not all great either – but it’s worth hearing as an interesting chapter in Sparks‘ history, and it does have its moments.

There is supposedly a 2008 CD reissue of Interior Design, but I’ve never seen a copy – your best bet is to just dive in with the digital release, available here.

Record Store Day 2014

Despite all my reservations about Record Store Day (mainly, the fact that only eBay sellers actually seem to get anything out of it), it’s hard not to get excited. So given the chance, you should probably think about finding your local record shop this Saturday, and seeing what might grab your fancy.

Here are some of the more interesting releases this year:

  • Amorphous Androgynous (sometimes also known as The Future Sound of London) – The Cartel & Remixes (2xLP, UK only)
  • Art of NoiseLive at the End of a Century (LP picture Disc, 500 copies, UK / Germany / Netherlands / Belgium only)
  • David Bowie1984 Picture Disc (7″, 4,000 copies, US / Canada only) and Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide (picture disc, Germany / Netherlands / France / Belgium only)
  • ChromeoEzra’s Interlude / Over Your Shoulder (7″, Germany / Netherlands / Belgium only)
  • CHVRCHESRecover EP (12″, 2,500 copies, US / Canada only) and We Sink (7″, UK / Germany only)
  • Cut CopyIn These Arms of Love / Like Any Other Day (10″, 2,000 copies, US only)
  • DevoButch Devo and the Sundance Gig (Vinyl / DVD, 1,750 copies) and Live at Max’s Kansas City – November 15, 1977 (12″, 2,000 copies, US only)
  • Everything But the GirlEden (30th Anniversary Edition) (gatefold clear LP, UK / Germany / Netherlands / Italy / France / Belgium only)
  • Gemma RayDeath Disc (7″ picture disc, Germany / Netherlands only)
  • Inspiral CarpetsDung 4 + The Cow EP (LP + 7″, UK / Germany only)
  • Joy DivisionAn Ideal for Living (1978) (12″, 7,500 copies, US / Canada / Italy / France / Belgium only)
  • LCD SoundsystemThe Long Goodbye (LCD Soundsystem Live at Madison Square Garden) (5×12″, 3,000 copies)
  • David LynchThe Air is on Fire (LP, 1,000 copies) and The Big Dream Remix EP (12″, UK / Germany / Netherlands / France / Belgium only)
  • MGMT – Congratulations (180 gram 2xLP, 1,000 numbered copies) and Oracular Spectacular (180 gram LP, 1,500 numbered copies)
  • Kylie MinogueGolden Boy (7″, Germany / Netherlands / Canada / France only)
  • The NotwistRun Run Run (12″, 1,770 copies)
  • Nova Nova & Peter HookLow Ends (Original and Slabb Remixes) (7″, UK only) and Low Ends (Thierry Criscione Remixes) (7″, UK only)
  • Pet Shop BoysFlourescent (12″, UK only)
  • The SpecialsSock it to ’em J.B. / Rat Race (7″, 1,000 copies, certain US / Canada / Belgium locations only)
  • Tears for FearsReady Boys & Girls (10″, 3,000 copies, US only)
  • Sébastien TellierL’Incroyable Vérité (LP, UK / Germany / Canada / France only)
  • The TheGiant (12″, 2,000 copies)
  • Tracey ThornMolly Drake Songs (7″, UK only)

I’ve done my best to get the territories right, but you’ll probably want to cross-check with the lists here if there’s something specific you’re after…

Last year’s list, if it’s still of interest, was here.

Bizarre search engine terms

I’ve been writing this blog for a while now, and I’ve been enjoying watching the statistics for you lot, the people who visit. Your numbers are good, on the whole, and a lot of you stay to read stuff, which is encouraging too.

But I think what I enjoy the most is the search engine terms by which you end up on the page. Here are ten of my favourites, with the answers so you don’t need to search so hard in future:

devo newport stowaway club

Your best place to look for information about concerts past, present, and future tends to be Songkick.

vangelis -dimitri -moras -ebay -download

Erm. No idea what you were searching for here.

history of modern music

The Guardian did a nice article about this a couple of years ago. See here.

queen wings and band aid 2 million

I suspect the question here is “which sold more?” Wings managed 2 million on the dot with Mull of KintyreQueen managed 2.36 million with Bohemian RhapsodyBand Aid sold 3.69 million copies of Do They Know it’s Christmas?; and meanwhile Elton John surpassed all records in 1997 with 4.9 million sales of Candle in the Wind.

actor inside mr blobby

Barry Killerby, apparently, for the bulk of his career anyway.

how many brit awards did girls aloud have

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, just the one – they won Best British Single in 2009 with The Promise. They were also nominated for Best British Group in 2008 and 2009, Best Pop Act in 2008, and BRITs Hits 30 for The Promise in 2010.

lady gaga attitude towards kylie minogue

Apparently Kylie Minogue thinks there’s an element of her in Lady Gaga, according to a slightly pointless article in the New York Daily News, here. But what does Gaga think of Kylie? Keep searching…

did robsin green sing in band aid

No. There’s a table on the Wikipedia page for Band Aid 20.

are atomic kitten write a new albums

Technically they weren’t write the previous ones. But yes, sadly they is, thanks to the ITV series The Big Reunion. Read more about it on their Wikipedia page.

the,dark side,of,cliff richard

I think this may be my favourite. It would be tempting to suggest he lives a vampire lifestyle by night, or maybe turns into a werewolf and howls in the moonlight.

But I don’t think so…

Live – Devo

Grab your flower pot hat and go and see them – whatever you may think of them, they’re absolutely brilliant live. Personally I’d hardly heard of them when I saw them at Coachella 2010, but I was very glad I went.

Devo are touring with someone called Blondie across the US in September, and supporting Simple Minds in Australia in December. Full dates are listed at Songkick. Catch ’em if you can.