always been a band that deals with contrasts. Russell Mael’s pretty boy looks
clashed with brother Ron’s scowl and Hitler moustache from their earliest days.
At its best, their music combined the pop melodies with witty struggles of
everyday folk and the well-to-do, the best of their discography sounding catchy
but not too clever, smart but not smug.
past, their song titles have often previewed the band’s lyrical depth. This
time, titles like “I Can’t Believe that You Would Fall For All The Crap In This
Song,” “The Director Never Yelled ‘Cut'” and “Lighten Up, Morrissey” would seem
to continue this tradition, although the latter’s musical reference goes
against the timelessness Sparks usually employs. So it’s frustrating to hear a
group that was once so literate resort to using the titles as punch lines,
which get repeated ad nauseum. The verses of “I Can’t Believe,” are built on
insipid clichés with the chorus delivering the title. Knowing the band’s track
record, these sound more like outlines than the finished song. “Lighten Up,
Morrissey” at least sounds hooky, setting up the tale of a fellow who can’t
measure up to the standards of his date’s favorite singer.
the joke has been established few of the songs get developed further. The
one-chord pounding works in “Let the Monkey
Drive,” in which Russell’s simian friend allows
him to get lucky in the backseat during a road trip. But the relentless “(She
Got Me) Pregnant” and “Strange Animal” drag on too long, with minimal melodies
that are pretty plain for someone like Ron Mael.
Standout Tracks: “Let
the Monkey Drive,”
“This is the Renaissance.” MIKE SHANLEY