Sparks – Hello Young Lovers

Once again, I feel it is time for us to talk about Sparks.

Last we left our heroes, they had just more or less reinvented their sound for the umpteenth time with Lil’ Beethoven, incorporating classical music and a few other surprises into their unique and “very clever” sound.

The follow-up, Hello Young Lovers, explores that sound a little further, and has turned out some of my very favorite new-era Sparks songs:

One of the best album covers ever, though not Sparks' best, they just have a lot of top-spotsI hate the idea of “concept albums”, because I think that albums should always have cohesion, whether by a central theme or not, so it shouldn’t be anything special that an album’s songs are all similar in theme, but I suppose there’s no easier way to distinguish albums that have a central theme and albums that are just a collection of songs from no particular source, except to call one “good” and one “bad”. Thus, this “good” album, Hello Young Lovers, has a central theme of Love, presumably in a “modern” sense, but when has Love ever changed in the human race?

Anyway, the first song is a rather complex and very long number called “Dick Around”. Of course, from the title, one wouldn’t expect the song to be very serious, and it isn’t. Still, the silliness is partially wrapped up in how serious this song sounds. It opens with a choir of voices singing the lines “All I do now is dick around, all I do now is dick around, dick around”. The lyrics that follow, on top of being quick, are actually not repeated endlessly, which already makes this song a bit of a rarity amongst the recent Sparks’ songs. The story follows a man who rose to the top of a corporation in order to impress a girl, who of course leaves him, and so he spends his days “dicking around” until he figures things out, and of course she tries to come back to him, but, well, the ending is up to you to check out. The song has a pretty interesting video by a guy called Shaw Petronio, featuring people with cats heads. I kid you not. The song, by the way, incorporates some interesting bits of metal in certain segments that, coupled with the frantic singing, reminds me a little bit of a tamer version of System Of A Down. Just throwing that out there.

The next song is my favorite on the album, and one of my favorites of Sparks’ in general. It’s called “Perfume” and also has a video directed by Shaw Petronio (who, if you couldn’t tell, did the marvelous video for “My Baby’s Taking Me Home” from Lil’ Beethoven). The song is held together by a really cool swing beat with a lot of rock infused. The main instrument is the guitar, which has a crunchy sound and is played perfectly to compliment the rhythm, with bass to match. Certain segments, almost at random really, are further made super sweet by Ron Mael and his legendary simple-yet-effective piano melodies. If there’s one thing Sparks does as perfectly as major key stuff, it’s minor key stuff. Anyways, lyrically the song takes us through a list of women and a list of famous perfume brands, and is about a woman who doesn’t wear perfume, and “That’s why I want to spend my life with you” is repeated often. It’s a great sentiment and kind of reflects my own views, the singer is obviously looking for someone who doesn’t follow the trends and goes by her own rules, even if means being unfashionable. There is a spoken word section that I love that says simply the following:

The olfactory sense is the sense that most strongly evokes memories of the past. Well… screw the past.

Absolutely!

The next song is “The Very Next Fight” and has kind of an intense melody driven by what sounds like an old saloon player-piano. Either way, the song is about an insanely jealous lover who burns up over seeing another fella looking at his woman’s legs. It’s an interesting idea but takes over 5 minutes to put across, which is average length for this album’s songs, to tell you the truth, but I don’t consider this song to be one of the stronger ones.

“(Baby, Baby) Can I Invade Your Country?” is much more like it, it’s at least unique because it has an acoustic guitar, which is almost unheard of in Sparks’ music. The lyrics playfully take a jab at the United States’ foreign policy (besides the lyrics, the “Star Spangled Banner” is being sung between the lines, which is how you know it’s about the U.S.) while simultaneously wooing a girl in an interesting way. I was going to say something else about the song, but actually I just remembered that that’s pretty much it.

“Rock, Rock, Rock” is such a great title for the next song, since it spends a lot of time just letting violins play, which is hardly “rock”. This song evokes a lot of “The Rhythm Thief” in its intensity and use of lots of strings. The song is basically begging a girl not to leave the singer, who promises to show “passion and fervor” by “Rock, rock, rock”-ing “like a mother”. It’s kind of great, and of course the melody is really cool too, even if the words are mainly just a drone.

“Metaphor” is my other favorite song on the album, mainly for the lyrics, but also because I just really love the chord progression. Let’s not forget about those lyrics, though:

A metaphor is a glorious thing,
A diamond ring, the first day of summer
A metaphor is a breath of fresh air,
A turn-on, an aphrodisiac

Chicks dig, dig, d-i-g, dig, dig metaphors

It’s interesting to have a song, which like many songs, is largely composed of metaphors, to be about metaphors and how great they are. It’s self-reference on so many levels without being goofy about it. Again though, this song should be heard for the tune as much as the clever ideas underneath.

“Waterproof” is another really great melodic song (perhaps the first song that actually has a vocal melody to speak of). In fact, it kind of harkens to early Sparks songs, but without so many guitars (until the last minute and a half anyway), and with some great upright bass work. The song relates to love in a bit of a different way, since it’s about being unsympathetic to a crying woman. I’m sure there’s some special context behind this, but I don’t have the words in front of me, so we’ll leave it unknown for now.

Then we get a song called “Here Kitty”, which gets most of its rhythm from layering vocals singing rhythmically “particularly the line “here kitty kitty kitty”. It actually doesn’t appear to be much of a relationship song or a love song, instead it’s quite literally about saving a lot of cats, including a circus tiger. It’s a pretty great song regardless, but yeah that’s another thing I don’t like about the idea of “concept albums”, which is the idea that we should be bothered if a song falls away from the theme. This song isn’t bothersome!

The next song is “There’s No Such Thing As Aliens”, which is technically true. This is another great song that, again, isn’t really about love or relationships or anything. In fact, I am willing to bet that we’re done with this “theme” for now. In fact, I am pretty sure “As I Sit To Play The Organ At The Notre Dame Cathedral” isn’t really either, but the song’s so rockin’ that I don’t really mind.

Well, we’ve already reached the end of the album! Hello Young Lovers may not add anything particularly unique that Lil’ Beethoven hadn’t already established, but that’s by no means a bad thing. This album is excellent, so you would do well to seek it out however you can. I’ve still got a lot of great Sparks albums to talk about, so hopefully we’ll be seeing them again soon. Until then, happy listening!

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