HippopotamusMusic • CD
18/09/2017, Paul PLEDGER
There are few bands remaining in service from the '70s but Sparks have shown considerable endurance since the Mael brothers cemented their musical union in 1972. 45 years later and album number twenty-three heralds something of a renaissance for the band and yet another career highlight.
Recalling the acerbic and observational lyricisms of old, Hippopotamus is intelligent, fun and charmingly eccentric for the best part of its 55 minutes. Theatrical, harmonic and kitsch, the opening salvo of Probably Nothing, Missionary Position, Edith Piaf and Scandanavian Design are the equal of anything Ron and Russell have released, period.
Humour sits at the very heart of Sparks' candour - how can you resist couplets like "Most times she won't come but I don't really mind / Has a job to do as some guy's concubine...", "You might have positions you can recommend / But I don't know if we'll ever get to them..." or "In every other way I find you amazing but one / I wish you were fun...".
For sheer silliness however, head to the title-track. On Hippopotamus, the Maels are confronted with the issue of hippos, Bosch paintings and a VW camper in their pool, set to the sort of tune normally reserved for nursery rhymes or flamboyant musicals.
Dismiss Sparks at your peril - the likes of Divine Comedy, Momus, Cardiacs and even Killers in their earlier incarnation have benefitted from bearing similar dramatic genes, intended or otherwise and this is up there with their best.
This review also appeared on Flipside Reviews.
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