Bands that have been performing for more than 30 years are often categorized in the cultural doldrums known as “lite rock.” But not for art rock legends Sparks. Their 24th album (20th actual studio album), titled Hello Young Lovers has recaptured this writer’s love for the flamboyant duo. This album has raised the bar of integrity, inspiration, and quality for all bands that aspire to continue as long as they have.
Sparks’ originators are a fraternal duo from Los Angeles, Ron and Russell Mael. Along with their full time drummer, Tammy Glover, and guitarist Dean Menta, Sparks have invited some more of their chums to join in the fun this time around, most notably guitarist Jim Wilson and Redd Kross bassist Steve McDonald.
As one would come to expect, Hello Young Lovers is reminiscent of the glam rock era from which Sparks was spawned. Dramatic, theoretical, and intense, Sparks have crafted an album that has leaped forward with flare and power. In other words, it’s, uh, really good. Lovers is practically overflowing with standout gems. “Perfume” is a veritable punch in the face, starting out with a spoken word verse. Layers of vocals, piano, guitar, and tapping drums are all piled on top of each other, combining rock, new wave, and synth pop sounds in one, gigantic, unquestionably Sparks-sounding song. “As I Sit Down To Play The Organ At The Notre Dame Cathedral” is the final song on the album, and a musical journey at that. Clocking in at seven minutes and two seconds, the song is like a mini opera, telling the story of the proverbial “working man.” The musical composition of this epic shifts in tone while setting the tone for the next “act,” as it were.
It has now been over thirty years since Sparks first unleashed their falsetto howl. And they haven’t slowed down a bit. Hello Young Lovers is a testament of how music can only get better with time. That one band is still making inspiring, groundbreaking music, without selling out or settling for safe, mainstream accessibility, is proof positive that you can age as a rock icon without becoming boring or embarrassing.
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