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Sparks in an American pop and rock duo, originally formed as a Los Angeles band called Halfnelson in 1967 by brothers Ron (keyboards) and Russell Mael (vocals). Sparks' music is often accompanied by sophisticated and acerbic lyrics, often about women or Shakespearean literature references, and an idiosyncratic, theatrical stage presence, typified in the contrast between Russell's animated, hyperactive frontman antics and Ron's deadpan scowling. They are also noted for Russell Mael's distinctive wide-ranging voice and Ron Mael's intricate and rhythmic keyboard playing style. They were much more successful in Europe compared to their native US, though they maintain a loyal cult following there.
Sparks started in the late 1960s under the name "Halfnelson", and their debut LP was produced by Todd Rundgren. Unfortunately, it didn't go anywhere, as it wasn't promoted. However, following a reissue with a name change to "Sparks", the album did quite a bit better, having a couple of Almost-Hits. A few albums later, and a few more almost-hits later, Sparks were having much more success in the UK, so they moved to London for a time, doing their particular 1970s mixture of glam, rock, disco and, well, Sparksness. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, they hooked up with Giorgio Moroder for a bit of a more electropop/dance sound, with a bit more of a rock tinge. In most cases, their lyrical sense of humor was intact, although Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat pretty much dropped all that, and suffered as a result, no longer sounding like a Sparks album but just a good, but generic 1980s Pop record. Their output has slowed in the 1990s and beyond, but they're still going strong, putting out some of their strongest work, in a more electropop vein, with the excellent Balls and Li'l Beethoven.
- Two Hands, One Mouth: Live in Europe (2012)
- FFS (2015) (with Franz Ferdinand as FFS)