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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.

Biography

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.

Discography

Albums

  • Halfnelson (1971)
    • reissued as Sparks, 1972
  • A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing (1973)
  • Kimono My House (1974)
  • Propaganda (1974)
  • Indiscreet (1975)
  • Big Beat (1976)
  • Introducing Sparks (1977)
  • No. 1 in Heaven (1979)
  • Terminal Jive (1980)
  • Whomp That Sucker (1981)
  • Angst in My Pants (1982)
  • In Outer Space (1983)
  • Pulling Rabbits Out of a Hat (1984)
  • Music That You Can Dance To (1986)
  • Interior Design (1988)
  • Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins (1994)
  • Plagiarism (1997)
  • Balls (2000)
  • Li'l Beethoven (2002)
  • Hello Young Lovers (2006)
  • Exotic Creatures of the Deep (2008)
  • The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman (2009)
  • Hippopotamus (2017)
  • A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip (2020)


Compilation albums

  • A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing (1968) (Self-released)
  • 2 Originals of Sparks (1975)
  • The Best of Sparks (1978)
  • The History of the Sparks (1981)
  • Mael Intuition (The Best of the Sparks 1974-76) (1990)
  • Profile: The Ultimate Sparks Collection (1991)
  • The Heaven Collection (1993)
  • The Hell Collection (1993)
  • In the Swing (1993)
  • The 12 Inch Mixes (1996)
  • 12 Mixes (1999)
  • The Best of Sparks (2000)
  • This Album's Big Enough… The Best of Sparks (2002)
  • Shortcuts - The 7inch Mixes (1979-1984) (2012)
  • Extended - The 12inch Mixes (1979-1984) (2012)
  • Real Extended: The 12 inch Mixes (1979-1984) (2012)
  • New Music for Amnesiacs: The Essential Collection (2013)
  • Past Tense – The Best of Sparks (2019)


Live albums

  • Two Hands, One Mouth: Live in Europe (2012)

Collaborative albums

Appears On

Compilations

Mix CDs

Radio Shows

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