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Who don’t love Sparks? I suppose the folks who don’t know who Sparks are might not love Sparks, but that’s only because of plum ignorance. But REST EASY, reader — we’re here to set you straight by reviewing ALL the Sparks records — and not just by one, but TWO (and maybe occasionally MORE!) Die-Hard Sparks Fan Reviewers. We shall be your guide into the wonderful world of Mael. Check it out!
Rev. Syung Myung Me: This is one of my favorite Sparks albums — easily my favorite of the Island Trilogy. The production by Tony Visconti (who worked with Bowie, amongst many other talented folks) is great — and makes Indiscreet perhaps the first Sparks album that really takes a hard turn from what comes before it. As it turns out, Indiscreet isn’t really a rock album — or at least more than it is anything else.
“Happy Hunting Ground”, “How Are You Getting Home” and “The Lady Is Lingering” are much like the Kimono/Propaganda-era Sparks — the main difference is Russell’s vocals are mixed more prominent, which is a definite improvement. The other cuts on the album, though, leap genres, mostly with an eye to the past. “Get In The Swing”, the first single from the album, sounds like a marching band. “Looks, Looks, Looks” has a great sound that sounds like it came from the 1930s — a full, show-stopper type of number. “It Ain’t 1918” musically sounds like it could come from that year (aside from the handful of electric guitars), and “Hospitality On Parade”, “Under the Table With Her” fit that early 20th century sound even more.
Even if most of the album has a sound that your grandparents might enjoy, songs like “In The Future” sound much like what Sparks would be doing later — it’s got a similar feel to songs like “I Predict” from the early ‘80s-era. And lyrically, it’s some of Ron’s best. “Tits” is a great story about a cuckolded husband, a victim of his new infant and later his best friend. “Under the Table With Her” is a look at a young boy who escapes a fancy dinner by hiding under the tablecloth with a friend — pretending to be dogs, so no one’s the wiser (and so they don’t miss out on dinner). The outstanding songwriting, performances and production just make this a classic album. I’ve always been surprised to find out that this one is one of the more maligned Sparks albums — it’s one of my Desert Island ones.
Aila: Indiscreet is the first Sparks album to significantly differ in style from what came before. It’s also one of their best records, and I find it hard to believe that it wasn’t a critical, if not commercial success when it came out (but apparently it wasn’t). If you are a Sparks fan, and you consider this one of their lesser albums, I recommend a hearing test and/or a good old-fashioned “smack upside the head.”
Perhaps the most interesting thing about many of the songs on this album are the swing or “big band” inspired sounds. This is particularly evident on “Get In The Swing,” which probably should have been the opening track. The actual opening track, “Hospitality On Parade,” brings a hint of yesteryear sound itself (albeit of a slightly different variety), while also delivering an inkling of the infectious repetition that would become a hallmark of later Sparks albums. “Looks Looks Looks,” “Pineapple,” and “It Ain’t 1918” all sound like songs that could have been made decades earlier, but with a unique Sparks rendering which wouldn’t have been possible then. Songs like “Happy Hunting Ground,” “How Are You Getting Home,” and “In The Future” may be a bit closer in design to songs on the previous Sparks albums, but it’s arguable. “Under The Table With Her” is Sparks for string quartet, melded with the cheeky lyrical humor exhibited on most of the album. Every song is extremely well crafted, and the production is spotless, particularly by the standards of the time.
There is a lot of amazingly new-sounding music on this album, a record from the mid 1970s. Although a fair amount of style is borrowed from even further in the past, it still manages to sound fresh. This is the album where Sparks really started to take risks with their music. Those risks might not have immediately paid off with in terms of commercial success, but they definitely did artistically. And it was really the major starting point of a history of musical innovation for the band – one of the most important reasons Sparks fans continue to love them to this day. Indiscreet was the third and final UK-produced album for Sparks, and immediately afterward there would be a period of slight decline before they re-emerged with more innovation and some modest Stateside success. This is one of the best Sparks records in my opinion – a must-have for any fan of Sparks, and a must-listen for any fan of music.