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In Outer Space

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Album Review

Sparks' 12th album got off to the best possible start when the first single, "Cool Places," a breakneckedly breezy duet with the Go-Go's' Jane Wiedlin, spun off to become the Mael brothers' first ever Top 50 hit in their American homeland. It would also be their last, but an entire generation of new fans arose regardless to pursue the siblings through both their future convolutions and their past ones too. In Outer Space's almost ruthless distillation of all that had gone before was, then, an ideal place for them to start. Like the duo's Giorgio Moroder era, In Outer Space represented a creative rejuvenation that its immediate predecessors had scarcely dared hint at. Even within the quickly dated framework of the album's production, the tunes bristle with a locomotive curiosity that neither Whomp That Sucker nor Angst in My Pants could muster and, if there's nothing here as instantly striking as, say, "This Town Ain't Big Enough" or "Equator," neither is there anything as ultimately grating as "I Predict" or "Wacky Women." Or, rather, there is "Praying for a Party," but it is readily forgivable in the face of the rib-tickling "All You Ever Think About Is Sex," or the unapologetically romantic "Rockin' Girls" — "you're the only girl I've ever met who hates "Hey Jude"," muses Russell; "maybe that's the reason I'm so in love with you." Another Wiedelin duet, the dynamically slush-laden "Lucky Me, Lucky You," too, never fails to entrance, the ultimate losers' love story transplanted to a shipwrecked tropical paradise, while "I Wish I Looked a Little Better" offers up an entertainingly cracked mirror image to Whomp's own highlight, "Funny Face." But, though the moral of that story might well be "be careful what you wish for," the same cannot be said for In Outer Space. Sparks' fans had been crying out for a return to true glory since Terminal Jive. They got it, and it was even better than they dreamed.

Biography

Formed: 1970 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Sparks is the vehicle for the skewed pop smarts and wise-guy wordplay of brothers Ron and Russell Mael, Los Angeles natives who spent their childhood modeling young men's apparel for mail-order catalogs. While attending UCLA in 1970, the Maels formed their first group, Halfnelson, which featured songwriter Ron on keyboards and Russell as lead vocalist; the...
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In Outer Space, Sparks
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