Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sparks "Exotic Creatures of the Deep" [2008]

This is an album by Sparks. I bought this at their recent live appearance in Dublin, partly at random and partly because it has the track 'Lighten Up, Morrissey' on it. A friend who likes Sparks recommended it, but then he recommends almost all Sparks albums.

I think of Sparks has having two periods - Classic Sparks (the time when they used to appear on Top of the Pops when I was small) and Recent Sparks (anything from the last ten years or so). The stretch of time between these two periods is disturbing and interstitial. Exotic Creatures of the Deep is from the second period. It is the album that comes after Hello Young Lovers, a record that gave them a new lease of life to people like me, establishing them as a band still making interesting music and not one trading pathetically on former glories.

The sound is a lot less rock than classic 1970s Sparks, being more based on keyboards and the mannered vocals of Russell Mael. It has three tracks that particularly stick in my memory. 'Good Morning' feels like the opening track, though it actually comes second after a short intro. The lyrics, sung largely in falsetto, are from the point of view of someone who is astonished to wake up in the morning next to someone very sexually attractive, realising that they must have engaged in unremembered drunken copulation the night before. Blimey. Then there is 'Strange Animal', which is less jaunty, featuring the very high falsetto refrain of "what strange animals we a-a-are". The overall lyrics make less impression on me, but the song drills into my subconscious.

The last of the Three Notable Tracks is the afore-mentioned 'Lighten Up Morrissey'. Lyrically it is about this guy whose girlfriend will not shag him because she is so into Morrissey, so the guy reckons that if only Morrissey would lighten up he would be able to convince the girlfriend to put out. Irene has pointed out that a problem with the song is the idea that Morrissey needs to lighten up - as the great man is well known to discerning listeners for his wry sense of humour.

Also, why would Morrissey lightening-up persuade his lady admirer to put out? Surely she would still be saving all her love for Mozz? But to me these questions are irrelevant. It is the song's jaunty sing-a-long quality ("Lighten up, Morrissee-eey! Lighten up Morrissey!") that carries it along and makes it one of my new favourite songs.

The rest of the album is arguably less memorable.

Hello, Young Lovers

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