Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sparks (né Halfnelson) (1971)

The first album! It took me quite a while to really get into the Halfnelson material, I have to say. It just sounded sort of thin and cramped compared to the widescreen, full-stereo of Kimono My House and Propaganda. And it's true to an extent; it does sound a bit more like a prelude than a fully-formed creation, both musically and lyrically. But repeated run-throughs revealed rewards. Boy oh boy is "Fletcher Honorama" a strange and creepy song, about an old man dying as his kinfolk serenade him. It sounds like it could be a Munly song, which is a very strange thing to say about anything coming out of Sparks.

Also of note: "Big Bands," with very accomplished, poignant lyrics about a poor, former musician with a collection of every big band record ever made and trying to get by and maybe find love. I feel like someone should make a movie out of this song. And there's "(No More) Mr. Nice Guy," which preempts the Alice Cooper song of that name and rocks surprisingly hard.

Generally, this has a vibe of sort of low-key, minimalistic heartfeltness, as particularly evident on tracks like "Wonder Girl" (a minor local hit!), "High C," "Slow Boat," and "Simple Ballet." I would generally recommend it, although probably not as one's first foray into Sparksdom.

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