Sparks - Hello Young Lovers

20 albums into their career, Sparks deliver an album which defines them, bewilders an audience used to the straightforward and predictable and opens with a six and half minute opus called "Dick Around", a song which makes "Bohemian Rhapsody" sounds like primal punk in comparison.

Recent single "Perfume" is an anti-bling tracks, name dropping just about every brand of perfume under the sun, before denouncing them outright. For Sparks this mini-overture is by turns the pop sensibility they've had in spades and it's this influence which Damon Albarn and Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos draw upon in their more interesting work. "Baby Baby, Can I Invade Your Country" threatens to turn into Erasure's "A Little Respect" throughout, but rather than just leave it as a moment of hi-camp (hi-camp could in fact be an understatement in this case), the song attacks American foreign policy and everything under the Stars and Stripes. "Rock Rock Rock" is one of the most disturbing haunting pieces of music in recent years displaying insecurity, loss and anger within its lyrical passages. While musically the arrangements are stirring and powerful, the vocals as ever with the Mael brothers are clinical and cold.

"Metaphor" sounds like the Scissor Sister with lyrics written by the IT Club trying to explain to a class of 10 year olds the use of the English language.

"Waterproof, "Here Kitty" and "There's No Such Thing As Aliens" mark a trilogy of tracks that are impossible to explain and could only come from the Brothers Mael. With Ron and Russ Mael anything is possible and as proved when Justin Hawkins tackled "This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us" as his debut solo single, he may have been able to hit the falsetto, but everything surrounding it was contrived.

When the Arctic Monkeys are considered the most revolutionary band in 2006, it's reassuring to know there's a counter balance, a band not afraid to be assured, overblown and wonderfully eccentric. For those fans of Rufus Wainwright and the Polyphonic Spree this is your next logical step in tracing their musical lineage, and for those who already know and love Sparks, by god this is their best release to date

Alex McCann

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