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Album Review: Sparks - Hippopotamus

By Leigh Sanders | Entertainment | Published:

We've all heard the theme tune.

"They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky, they're altogether ooky..."

But rather than the usual ending referencing everybody's favourite dark-souled family, we can use another moniker - Sparks.

They at times seem positively bonkers. But in the best possible way. These are part-song, part-story behemoths. Wondrous creations that contain not just an aura but an energy entirely their own.

Wonder what the heck we are talking about? Just listen.

Sparks have long been described as 'pop pioneers', their sound doesn't just alternate and transform as they progress from record to record but at times leaps further than Greg Rutherford spotting Greggs is about to close.

Here they have the best party - their first solo release since 2009's The Seduction Of Ingmar Bergman.

They have, of course, been getting down with Scottish rockers Franz Ferdinand under the banner of FFS. But left to their own devices they are back with a glitzy soiree that puts the likes of CSS or Lady Gaga to shame.

Whether they are finding all manner of things in their swimming pool on the title track or finding everything positively Giddy Giddy, the light-hearted nature is a joy to behold.

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Keys swirl with drum machine as brothers Ron and Russell Mael lift the curtain and welcome us into their world.

The trademark falsetto vocals from Russell mix with Ron's short, sharp playing to deliver delightfully zany trips you would expect to discover in the fields of Glastonbury at 4am.

What The Hell is It This Time features a delightfully hook-filled chorus with their unique and sniping world view poking fun at just about every trend. It's powered by some really uplifting crescendos that remain absorbing throughout.

I Wish You Were Fun laments a dull-humoured lover with witty cynicism, providing deeper, brooding melodies of an LCD Soundsystem-like vibe.

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And the sheer class of Edith Piaf (Said it Better Than Me) and So Tell Me Mrs. Lincoln Aside From That How Was The Play? effortlessly weave segments together to create grippingmusical journeys complete with not-to-miss endings.

Please, please, please don't make us wait as long again guys. This is magnificent!

Rating: 9/10

Sparks bring their wild fantasies to Birmingham's O2 Institute on Sunday, September 24.

Leigh Sanders

By Leigh Sanders
@LSanders_Star

Senior sub editor for the MNA portfolio and entertainments writer leaning towards features and reviews. Get releases to me at leigh.sanders@expressandstar.co.uk

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