BMG Records, 2022

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


My first experience with the sibling duo of Ron (keys) and Russell Mael (vocals), i.e. Sparks, was the movie Rad, where their tune “Music That You Can Dance To” did in fact soundtrack the flick’s dance scene. But as with so many synth-rock bands from this era, Sparks only held my 10-year-old attention span until I heard something superior like, say, When In Rome. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Well, it turns out Sparks just saw a large part of their catalog reissued, so I figured it was time to see what I missed out on since I devoted most of my synth-pop interest to OMD in the ’80s. Balls, their 18th album, was originally released in 2000, and has the pair touching on the world's interest in techno during this time while still staying very true to their pop roots.

The title track starts the listen and seems right at home with the synth-rock of the ’80s, where a spacey buzzing and smooth singing won’t go unnoticed. “More Than A Sex Machine” then brings an orchestral feel that segues into thumping dance-rock, while Aksinja Berger brings a speech into the dreamy keys and Tammy Glover's acrobatic drumming of the post-punk tainted “Aeroflot.”

Sandwiched in the middle are the slower and pretty “How To Get Your Ass Kicked,” which gets a bit soulful, and the anthemic, club ready “Bullet Train,” which carries a bit of a darker spirit that flirts with similarities to Prodigy.

The deeper tracks are among the best, such as the mature yet adventurous “Irreplaceable,” and the album closer, “The Angels,” which brings a cosmic dreaminess into the album’s poetic finish.

If you're picking up the CD version of this reissue, you'll get a bunch of bonus tracks. For the vinyl enthusiast and casual listener, the thick double LP is a great package that really highlights the longevity and diversity of Sparks.

Rating: B

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