Preview – Sparks

We’re deep in comeback season, and Sparks should definitely get their moment in the limelight. Their new album is called Hippopotamus (of course), and here’s the title track, with some typically brilliant lyrics:


Five years of stowaways – Part 5

So this concludes the celebration of this blog’s fifth birthday! One thousand, six hundred and thirty-five posts later, at an average of 6.2 posts per week. It’s no wonder there’s a bit of drivel mixed in here and there. OK, a lot, but you get my point.

What next for this blog? Well, it will continue for the foreseeable future, but it might start to wind down a bit more. A lot has changed in the last five years, as you might expect, and I fully expect it to change a lot in the future as well. It’s exactly two years since I gave up on the idea of trying to post every day, and now even five times a week seems a lot of work. But it will still be here, in some form, for as long as the music lasts.

Perhaps the most exciting release of the next few months is Hippopotamus, the new album from Sparks. I’m not clear whether this is one of the tracks on there, but of course it’s brilliant:

Retro chart for stowaways – 15 May 2004

I’m off on my holidays at the moment, so here’s the album chart from twelve years ago this week!

  1. Air – Talkie Walkie
  2. Pet Shop Boys – PopArt
  3. Goldfrapp – Black Cherry
  4. Dido – Life for Rent
  5. Erlend Øye – Erlend Øye – DJ-Kicks
  6. Zero 7 – When It Falls
  7. Sugababes – Three
  8. Dubstar – Stars – The Best of Dubstar
  9. Bent – Programmed to Love
  10. Sparks – Lil’ Beethoven

Greatest Hits – Vol. 9

Every so often when things are quiet, I like to take a bit of a breather and highlight some of the reviews you might have missed in recent times. Here’s another selection:

  • The Avalanches – Since I Left You
  • Camouflage – Spice Crackers
  • Enigma – MCMXC a.D.
  • Goldfrapp – Felt Mountain
  • Gotan Project – Lunático
  • Kraftwerk – Autobahn
  • Pet Shop Boys – Please
  • Sparks – Hello Young Lovers
  • Yello – Baby
  • Various Artists – Metropolis

Read and enjoy!

Retro chart for stowaways – 4 March 2006

The top ten albums from a decade ago:

  1. Goldfrapp – Supernature
  2. Röyksopp – Röyksopp’s Night Out
  3. Madonna – Confessions on a Dance Floor
  4. Sparks – Hello Young Lovers
  5. Depeche Mode – Playing the Angel
  6. Sugababes – Taller in More Ways
  7. Röyksopp – The Understanding
  8. a-ha – Analogue
  9. Pet Shop Boys – Battleship Potemkin (OST)
  10. Faithless – Forever Faithless – The Greatest Hits

Sparks – Hello Young Lovers

After all the decades they have spent in the music industry, Sparks should definitely know what they’re doing. Every couple of years, they reappear without much warning, promoting another new album. Typically, each one is somehow entirely unlike its predecessor and yet still completely brilliant. Occasionally, the quality drops – not much, but just enough to be noticeable.

Hello Young Lovers (2006) finds Sparks suffering somewhat from “difficult second album” syndrome, after 2002’s hugely acclaimed Lil’ Beethoven. The first song, Dick Around, shows heavy echoes of its predecessor – it’s theatrical and operatic, and it consists of long sections without drums. It’s more contemporary, insofar as Sparks have ever been contemporary, and ultimately sadly it comes across as a little confused.

After seven minutes or so of that, the lead single Perfume comes next. This is one of the best songs on here, with all of the charm that you would expect from the Mael brothers. Where it’s lacking is perhaps just a little on the lyrical front – it’s fun, but there’s nothing quite as absurd here as you sometimes get.

The dramatic The Very Next Fight follows, and then the curiously discordant (Baby Baby) Can I Invade Your Country. Some songs do include the trademark silly lyric writing, and this is one, although the alternative lyric which appears on one of the singles highlights the slight lack of direction here. On the album version, the result is fun, but somewhat lacking melodically.

Rock, Rock, Rock is closer – it sticks very much to the operatic sound of this and the previous album, but the daft lyric and catchy melody make their appearance very firmly this time, leading cleanly into what could well be the best song on the album, Metaphor.

It’s comforting and reassuring that after somewhere in the region of 35 years of making music, they are still able to produce songs like this, a completely bonkers song about how great metaphors are, and particularly how attractive they make you to the opposite sex.

Waterproof is equally silly, perhaps only lacking a little bit of the charm of its predecessor, and then comes the wonderfully ridiculous Here Kitty, a song about a cat which intentionally climbs trees in order to introduce its owner to firemen.

Then comes the supremely daft There’s No Such Thing as Aliens, and yes, that really is the name of a song. While the first couple of tracks on here might have been a little uncomfortable, by this end of the album Sparks are definitely on top form.

The last song is As I Sit to Play the Organ at Notre Dame Cathedral, which apart from the sombre and silly organ work doesn’t really introduce anything new in the way of concepts, but is a decent way to draw this release to a close.

Hello Young Lovers is definitely a slightly confused work, but ultimately it comes together pretty well, and you leave it happy in the knowledge that the Mael brothers are showing no sign of letting up even after this many years of making music.

You can still find Hello Young Lovers at all major retailers, such as here.

Christmas without a Prayer

It’s Christmas Eve, and for some reason I’m always a bit surprised when somebody turns up with a new Christmas song. This one, in particular – the brilliant Sparks have barely released anything new for half a decade now, and then they suddenly come up with this, Christmas without a Prayer. Season’s greetings!