Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Sparks

  • Propaganda [Island, 1975] C-
  • Introducing Sparks [Columbia, 1977] B
  • No. 1 in Heaven [Elektra, 1979] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Propaganda [Island, 1975]
Admirers of these self-made twerps certainly don't refer to them as pop because they get on the AM--for once the programmers are doing their job. So is it because they sing in a high register? Or because a good beat makes them even more uncomfortable than other accoutrements of a well-lived life?; "Never turn your back on mother earth," they chant or gibber in a style unnatural enough to end your current relationship or kill your cacti, and I must be a natural man after all, because I can't endure the contradiction. C-

Introducing Sparks [Columbia, 1977]
On its five albums for Bearsville and Island, this skillful brother act compounded personal hatefulness with a deliberately tense and uninviting take on pop-rock. But with their Columbia debut, Big Beat, they began to loosen up, and here one cut actually makes surf music history, in the tending-to-hyperconsciousness section. This is tuneful, funny, even open. But the fear of women and the stubborn, spoiled-teenager cynicism is still there, and it's still hateful. B

No. 1 in Heaven [Elektra, 1979]
Anglophilia's favorite androids were destined from day of manufacture to meet up with some rock technocrat or other, so thank Ford it was Giorgio Moroder, the most playful of the breed. They even got a minor dance hit out of it--"Beat the Clock," a good one--but that's not the point. The point is channeling all their evil genius--well, evil talent, then--into magic tricks. Like the ultimate voice-box song. Or the title tune, which sounds like "Baba O'Riley" and then breaks down into Eno (or is that Gentle Giant?). Fun fun fun. B+

Further Notes:

Everything Rocks and Nothing Ever Dies [1990s]