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Hello Young Lovers

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Album Review

Why it is that after years or even decades some artists continue to thrill and entertain while others just burn out badly is one of those great mysteries, but in the example of Ron and Russell Mael, aka Sparks, they're firmly in the former category. Hello Young Lovers is their 20th studio album in 35 years, not to mention one of their best. Following on from their enjoyable all-classical instrumentation experiment, Lil' Beethoven, Sparks take their cue here from the album's one song that added full rock band instrumentation to all the strings, "Ugly Guys with Beautiful Girls." The resulting fusion on Hello Young Lovers — with the brothers and drummer Tammy Glover now accompanied full-time by former touring guitarist Dean Menta, along with Redd Kross' Steve McDonald guesting on bass and Jim Wilson on guitar — audibly harks back to the U.K. glam era of the band but crucially does not simply replicate it. Instead, it's as close to a full mélange of all the band's various sounds thus far over the years, as Lil' Beethoven's orchestral swoops are shot through with feedback and subtler hints of the various dance incarnations of the duo. Opening track "Dick Around," with its rapidly ascending and descending melodies, absolutely precise performance (Russell's voice continues to be one of the best ever in the field while Ron's ear for immediate but busy-as-heck hooks similarly hasn't gone stale), and back-and-forth arrangements between strings and guitar is a tour de force on its own, not to mention showing that the trademark Mael misanthropic wit remains fully intact. From there, Hello Young Lovers is off to the races, with only a tiny misstep or two along the way ("Here Kitty" is cute but slight, "Metaphor" takes a while to connect fully). First single "Perfume" is a delight, a finger-snapping swing of a song that's still very 21st century, with a classic Russell spoken word break to boot. Other highlights include the outrageous "(Baby Baby) Can I Invade Your Country?," a reworking of the American national anthem that turns into the slyest post-9/11 song yet, and the stellar conclusion "When I Sit Down to the Play the Organ in the Notre Dame Cathedral." "Waterproof" might be the best song in the end, Russell singing like butter couldn't melt in his mouth about being a merrily heartless bastard untroubled by his former love's "Meryl Streep mimicry" while the sound moves from chamber music to a hint of '30s jazz to a full rock-out apocalypse. If, as is often alleged, Queen ripped off Sparks to fully kick-start their own career, Hello Young Lovers is Sparks having the last and best laugh, not just on their former rivals but on all those bands now and then whose members may have listened in but never showed even a tenth of the Maels' genius and inspiration.

Customer Reviews

A good Sparks album.

Dick Around is a really sweet song. Perfume and Invade your country are really good as well!


That's all I can say. This album is brilliant.

Sparks still does it

Years-later, another masterpiece.


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 band was rounded out by another pair of brothers, guitarist Earle and bassist Jim Mankey, and drummer Harley Feinstein. Halfnelson soon came...
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