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Sparks - Past Tense: The Best Of Sparks (BMG) 

8 November 2019

The Los Angeles sons, the Mael brothers Ron (mustache) and Russell (mullet) are an integral part of music for the past forty-eight years. Joined through blood, the two artists work as an independent musical machine who have created a stunning body of work. Perhaps even up there with influential acts such as Kraftwerk Velvet Underground, what may sound astounding is simply fact even though, at times they are not as recognizable as that very influence they cast. Sparks were simply innovators, and remain to be, incorporating styles such as synth pop, new wave, post-punk, and alternative music stretching further into indie and even goth. The lessons they taught the music world has been picked up by a wide range of singers and bands including- New Order, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Sonic Youth, Nirvana and Björk. Which is why a retrospective is not only welcomed but essential for both fans and attracting curious newcomers. 

The aptly titled Past Tense is fifty-eight tracks (triple cd version) covering the outfits twenty-four studio albums. The set kick-starts faithfully with 1967’s “Computer Girl” although recorded under the name Urban Renewal Project. From there through Halfnelson’s “Wonder Girl” and into the greatest album name of all time;A Woofer in Tweeter’s Clothing. “Girl from Germany” and “Beaver O’Lindy” both representative of that early burst of creativity. From there moving into the sonic treatments of “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us”, which is new wave, glam, hair metal all rolled into one. With that voice of Russell soaring against the strange intense creations of Ron. The songs roll out across the first disc taking in cuts from Indiscreet, Propaganda right up to the close of the seventies, and the Sparks collaboration with Giorgio Moroder on Nº 1 in Heaven

The bands disco adventure stretches into disc two, for those who may feel the first incarnation, like so many others, is the best, here’s the thing, they retain quality throughout. Not hinged on one era the ideas with a tongue-in-cheek humor continue.
The consistency within the outfit runs through their output with a few collaborations notably the Go-Go’s Jane Wiedlin on “Cool Places” and more interesting “Singing In The Shower” with French pop outfit Les Rita Mitsouko

With extravagant adventures into concept pieces with the neo-classical Lil’ Beethoven represented with “Suburban Homeboy” and the art rock of “Dick Around” from 2006’s Hello Young Lovers. From here we come right up to date with the engrossing The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman along with the acclaimed collaboration with Franz Ferdinand in FFS on “Johnny Delusional”. Ending with their most recent, the sharp pop of Hippopotamus and the 2017 Record Store Day release “Check Out Time 11AM”
While we await new material and look forward to a twenty-fifth anniversary remaster of Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins, this collection acts as a celebration, a reminder of the vast depth of quality Sparks have created, and thankfully continue to. 

CD Tracklist; 
Disc One
1. Computer Girl
2. Wonder Girl
3. (No More) Mr. Nice Guys
4. Girl from Germany
5. Beaver O’Lindy
6. This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us
7. Amateur Hour
8. Here In Heaven
9. Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth
10. Something for the Girl With Everything
11. Achoo
12. Get in the Swing
13. In The Future
14. Looks, Looks, Looks
15. I Want To Hold Your Hand
16. Big Boy
17. I Bought The Mississippi River
18. Occupation
19. Those Mysteries
20. Tryouts for the Human Race
21. Beat the Clock

Disc Two
1. The Number One Song in Heaven
2. When I’m With You
3. Tips for Teens
4. Funny Face
5. Angst in My Pants
6. I Predict
7. Sherlock Holmes
8. Cool Places (with Jane Wiedlin)
9. Popularity
10. I Wish I Looked A Little Better
11. With All My Might
12. Change
13. Music That You Can Dance To
14. So Important
15. Singing In The Shower (with Les Rita Mitsouko)
16. National Crime Awareness Week (Psycho Cut)
17. When Do I Get to Sing ‘My Way’
18. (When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing – Radio Edit
19. Let’s Go Surfing

Disc Three
1. Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat
2. The Calm Before The Storm
3. It’s A Knockoff
4. The Rhythm Thief
5. My Baby’s Taking Me Home
6. Suburban Homeboy
7. Dick Around
8. Perfume
9. Islington N1
10. Good Morning
11. Lighten Up, Morrissey
12. Two Hands, One Mouth
13. Piss Off (Sparks original demo)
14. Johnny Delusional (FFS)
15. Missionary Position
16. Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me)
17. I Wish You Were Fun
18. Check Out Time 11AM

For More On Sparks