Jun 112015

Has anyone listened to the new FFS album? FFS stands for Franz Ferdinand and Sparks. Sparks is a band I had not thought about in years, until I heard about this new release. I didn’t even think they were a going concern, but I see they’ve cranked out a bunch of music in recent years.

From what little I’ve listened to them, the song above is consistent with what I recall about the band — offbeat lyrics, choppy start/stop beats, and quasi-operatic singing.

A buddy in college thought these guys were the greatest thing going — and I owned Big Boy and Sparks in Outer Space at one point, but I never understood them.

Can you enlighten me on the merits of Sparks? I look forward to your responses.



  16 Responses to “Please Explain: Sparks”

  1. I’m sorry, funoka, I can’t help you at all. I tried a few times years ago to get anything out of this band from many period, but they always turned me off.

  2. tonyola

    Okay, I’ll nibble at the bait here. Sparks seem to evoke either love or hate reactions – this is not a band where people simply go “meh”. Personally, I like Sparks; but hey, I’m the resident proghead so what do I know? Seriously, at their best, they combined humorous/smartass lyrics with hooky piano/guitar-based power pop. I agree that Russell Mael’s helium voice is an acquired taste, but is it really any more annoying than, say, Geddy Lee’s voice? Sparks made their best albums in the early to mid-’70s. After that, the lack of US hits drove the Maels to desperation and the albums became spottier, though they still managed some great songs. I recommend listening to A Woofer in Tweeter’s Clothing, Kimono My House, and Propaganda if you want to hear the band at their most confident.

  3. Thanks Tonyola — I’ll check out your recommendations. The albums I had — I guess the one was call Big Beat (the song was Big Boy), were probably not their best. You have to be impressed by the sheer volume of music they’ve produced over the years, and now this thing with FF. Would a Tubes comparison be off base? — sort of a foot in prog and a foot in pop/new wave?

  4. I first saw them in the movie Roller Coaster and I recall being intrigued by the fact that they were smashing up their gear and by the piano player’s weird affectations and Hitler mustache. I apparently wasn’t all that intrigued though because I never bothered to check out anything else by them.

  5. misterioso

    I find Sparks annoying, but tonyola, I take your point about Geddy Lee, though it would carry more weight with me if I didn’t also find him incredibly annoying. I think Sparks is more likely to make me laugh than Rush, but not “laughing with them” laughter, just laughing at them.

  6. I think people get excited about Sparks more for their pursuit of art rather than their art. While they have had some commercial success with “This Town Ain’t Big Enough” and “Cool Places” their fan base stays because the band is a curious interest. There is always something interesting to find in Sparks like the disco album with Giorgio Moroder, the opera about Ingmar Bergman, the 21 night residency where they played all(at the time) 21 of their albums. They just have a spirit of adventure that makes them a fun band to be a fan of even if not all of their output it good.

    Some of my favorite Sparks stuff was when they teamed up with Gleeming Spires

  7. underthefloat

    I actually love Sparks. Not that being unique is a reason to love them but back when their first albums came out…who else sounded like them, were like them? I was young at the time and blown away by what I saw on “The Midnight Special”. I can’t explain them, as mentioned, they really are a love or hate type experience for people. Yeas ago my daughter heard me listening to them she asked me laughing “Are you serious? You like this”. (smile)

    I would add the other early album that I love is “Indiscreet”. This is the album where they varied the tempo for the first time and I think it’s as good as the ones prior to it. A later album I love is “Whomp That Sucker”. Many of the rest have hits or misses.
    As far as still being around…Actually, Sparks had a come back which wowed most fans called “Lil Beethoven” in 2002 (after releasing a few dogs). They have had several since then and all with some level of praise by those who like them. I’m not as into these albums as the earlier but they are good.

  8. I have long thought Kimono My House is a fabulous phrase/album title. Every time I hear the word kimono I think of that title and smile. Or if someone says the word kimono, I’ll respond “Kimono My House”. Never has anyone had a clue what I was saying.

    I can’t say, though , that I recall ever hearing a Sparks song. Did they have any hits back in their early days?

  9. Who bankrolled all this stuff they put out? Are one or both trust fund kids?

  10. Well, they put their first album out in 1971 so it’s not like they’ve done all this stuff in five years and they have managed enough of an audience (esp in Europe) to keep going all these years.

  11. Sparks managed to break into the Billboard Top 100 twice during the early ’80s with “Cool Places” (#49) and “I Predict” (#60). That’s as close as they got to a hit in the US, but they were fairly popular for a few years in the UK during the ’70s.

  12. That’s what I’ve always suspected, funoka. If their parents weren’t Hollywood producers or fashion designers I’d be shocked. Heading to Wikipedia…

  13. Dad was a graphic designer and caraciturist for a Hollywood newspaper. Mom was a librarian. Probably not trust fund kids, but Hollywood kids. More power to them for seeing through their weird vision.

  14. Thanks — I guess success in Europe was enough to keep the music coming.

    That Wiki page is impressively maintained by the Sparks faithful. It makes my attempts to clean up the Gary Wright page seem pathetic.

    I should just leave Sparks alone and go listen to my obscure Gary Wright and ABC records.

  15. saturnismine

    I have nothing to add to this thread.

    I *get* their irony, but once the music was in motion, I just didn’t like what I heard.

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