PAST TENSE: THE BEST OF SPARKS – 3CD / 2CD / 3LP – November 8th 2019


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In any sane universe, academic studies would be devoted to Ron and Russell Mael, as they are to Dylan, Bowie or The Beatles. Municipal buildings and parks would be named after them. Statues would be erected in their honour. In the mind of the convert, Sparks are that significant.*

BMG announces the release of 2 catalogue collections by the provocateurs of pop – Sparks. Masters of reinvention, with an unappeasable ambition and a ravenous hunger for the now, Sparks – brothers Ron and Russell Mael – have been creating eye-poppingly brilliant pop music for more than 50 years.

The first, released on November 8th, is a career-spanning 58 track collection. From 1967’s ‘Computer Girl’ (recorded under the name Urban Renewal Project) to 2017’s ‘Check Out Time 11AM’ (from the ‘Hippopotamus’ sessions) PAST TENSE: THE BEST OF SPARKS is an immaculate lesson in how to stay consistently interesting for fifty years.

With sleeve-notes by Simon Price*, each track is hand-picked by Ron and Russell to best epitomise the era of Sparks from which they are drawn – forerunners of art rock, inventors of the synth duo, masters of new wave pop, Europop experimentalists and self-revisionists, in the 21st century they pioneered the electronic opera before delivering 2017’s pop masterpiece Hippopotamus.

The second, released November 15th, marks the 25th anniversary of Sparks’ 16th studio album ‘GRATUITOUS SAX & SENSELESS VIOLINS’. After a few years working on the as-yet-unrealised Mai The Psychic Girl film project – with both Tsui Hark (whose vocals appear on this record) and Tim Burton -, collaborating with Scottish band Finitribe on 1993’s ‘National Crime Awareness Week’, and producing demos for Star Trek regular and future Sparks drummer Christi Haydon, Ron and Russell Mael returned to the pop forum and the charts in 1994 with ‘Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins’. The first song written for the album ‘When Do I Get To Sing ‘My Way’ (originally titled ‘Punch And Judy Show’) would go on to become the number one radio song of ‘94 in Germany and a top 40 hit in the UK.

With sleeve notes by Ron Mael, Russell Mael and Christi Haydon, the original, remastered, album is accompanied by a mouth-watering collection for fans and completists – disc 2 comprises B sides, remixes and live recordings while disc 3 includes the unreleased tracks from the Christi Haydon EP and, uniquely for Sparks, 12 previously unreleased demos. One song, ‘That’s Entertainment’, is sung by former Sparks bass player Les Bohem; ‘This Angry Young Man (Ain’t Angry No More)’, and ‘Mid-Atlantic’, have two versions, one with Ron doing the vocals before “handing it off” to Russell.

Ron and Russell are currently putting the finishing touches to their new studio album, due for release in 2020. The ineluctable allure of Sparks will also be presented to the world in the as-yet-untitled documentary by the British film director Edgar Wright; meanwhile filming commences this month on Annette – the movie musical written by Sparks, directed by Leos Carax, and starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard.

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