Lil' Beethoven

Sparks

BMG Records, 2022

http://allsparks.com

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/16/2022

The 19th studio album from the globally embraced synth-duo Sparks, Lil' Beethoven sees Ron and Russell Mael steer sharply into classical ideas, where much emphasis on strings and piano is present, and drums are absent.

“The Rhythm Thief” opens the listen, a far cry from the band's well known synth-pop, with tense strings and ominous storytelling making for a lead-off track that seems like it might soundtrack a horror flick.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Things get a bit more melodic with the playful keys and hypnotic vocals of “How Do I Get To Carnegie Hall?” and then the cleverly titled “What Are All These Bands So Angry About?” sounds like a choir making a statement alongside firm keys.

“I Married Myself” and “Ride' Em Cowboy” complete Side A; the former is a bit dreamy and almost seems like fairy tale, while the latter quickly builds into a busy, textured display of chamber rock sensibilities, which, when this was released, wasn't so common in areas Sparks travels.

The back half is perhaps more unusual and includes the quirky pop of “My Baby's Taking Me Home,” which uses repetition strategically, while “Your Call's Very Important To Us. Please Hold” offers a conversational appeal that marches along in a near chanting manner.

“Suburban Homeboy,” the final tune, was the album's single, and it's easy to see why. It's the most accessible track and showcases a more upbeat quality amid a breezy melody that's quite memorable.

Just like all of the Sparks albums that are being reissued, this one comes on 180 gram vinyl and is newly remastered, and the CD version includes five bonus tracks. Surprisingly, the original album did not chart in the top 100 in their home country, the U.S. or Germany, nor did the single. Sparks were clearly onto something special, though, cause this version entered at number eight on the UK independent albums top 50.

Rating: B

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