See, quite often, I don't get etymologies and plays on words. It's a mental blind spot I have. I just have this tendency to not even think about these things, but rather just accept them. Still, I was embarrassed--and sort of stunned--when, just a few weeks ago, watching an interview and hearing Russell actually speak this album's title, it finally clicked into place. Unbelievable--you listen to an album eighteen billion times, and even when you hear it sung--nothin'. Then, all of a sudden, WHAM. It's like I'm born again or something.
As any fan will tell you, possibly grabbing you by the lapel and violently shaking you for emphasis, this is an extraordinary album, and--for my money--all the more so given what a…I don't want to say "leap forward," exactly, because god forbid I should malign the first too albums, but--well, let's just say, how different it sounds--so instantly fully-formed and self-assured. I don't know that I would quite call it "perfect" (blasphemy!); there are a few songs that I'm not super blown away by. Sorry, kids, but great title aside, "Thank God it's Not Christmas" leaves me a little cold.
But why be negative? "This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us" was a big hit in Britain, and it deserved it. I would characterize it as the most surreal panic attack ever put to music. You have these goofy yet tense torrents of consciousness interrupted by the repeated "Heartbeat! Increasing heartbeat!" Plus, the sound of gunfire. It's really not like anything else you will ever hear.
"Amateur Hour" is just as good, a mischievous, totally infectious song about reaching sexual awareness/maturity with lyrics that brilliantly showcase Ron Mael's sensibilities. "Lawns grow plush in the hinterlands," goes the first line, and you sort of have to think that whoever approved the song as a single didn't exactly get what Russell was singing about here. "Girls grow tops to be topless in" is another favorite line. Really you cannot expect lyrics this good from almost anyone else.
And so it goes. I could highlight almost every song, but we'd be here all day. Still, a word for "Hasta Mañana, Monsieur," a funny, impressionistic number about a confused tourist trying to put the moves on a local with only half-remembered high school language classes to go on. Lots of great lines. "You mentioned Kant and I was shocked (so shocked)/You know where I come from none of the girls have such foul tongues." Also, the eerie, winding closer, "Equator," where the guy is supposed to meet a girl on the Equator, but she's not there--turns out "The Equator" is not as precise a location as one had thought.
Anyway, there's no way to be a Sparks fan without this album. I would note that it's also rather necessary to listen to it at least a few times with the lyrics in front of you (as is the next album). It took me a while to warm to, mainly because of neglecting that part of the equation.