Sparks – Hippopotamus (BMG)
LP / CD / DL
9 / 10
I’m not sure I’ve heard such a theatrical piano opening to an album like this. It’s so simple and full of emotion and leads gorgeously into ‘Missionary Position’ which reminds me of some long lost 70’s TV theme about sexual positions. It’s the Missionary position baby!! There’s a really natural and bonkers vibe about this album so far but I’m sure Edith Piaf (said it better than me!). It’s a foot tapping piano driven ride so far full of dynamics and strings and cute keyboard sounds. The vocals on ‘Scandanavian Design’ have a nice retro effect on them and the production on the whole album is full of life and not too dissimilar to early 10CC with some massive catchiness. ‘Giddy Giddy’ really is Giddy Giddy and has a sound to it like it’s thrusting you into the VHS copy of Killer Klowns From Outer Space with a Die Antwoord soundtrack. It doesn’t let up on it’s insanity with ‘What The Hell Is It This Time’ and does make you ask ‘What the hell is it this time?’ with a grin and a boppin foot!
It’s not often an album provides track after track of unusual alternative quality but ‘Unaware’ has such a psychedelic groove not too dissimilar to The Doors playing Dawn Of The Replicants. I first heard ‘Hippopotomus’ on YouTube and it stuck on my head with its crazy repetitive lyrics and wonky arrangement and production it’s ace. ‘Bummer’ has the most modern production of the tracks so far and gives off a bit of a Flaming Lips mixed with Flight Of The Conchords cocktail being prepared by ABBA on drugs. It all gets happified with ‘I Wish You Were Fun’ and there’s no doubt this is definitely a highlight of 2017 for music and requires your immediate attention.
It’s an alternative album packing some serious Pop sensibilities lost a little bit in the sea of current serious bands and artists and ‘I Wish You Were Fun’ seems to highlight this a lot. It’s refreshing and surprising just how varied this album is and ‘So Tell Me Mrs. Lincoln Aside From That How Was The Play?’ is no different with it’s full, exciting orchestrated Rock pump and anthemic Rammstein-esque vocals. We go a bit French with ‘When You’re A French Director (featuring Leos Carax)’ with it’s Oompa accordion and signature Sparks vocals and I can really see it up on the stage. It starts losing its mind again when we get to ‘The Amazing Mr. Repeat’ and it feels like we’re being led through some dark Circus over and over again hence the title.
The thing with Sparks and this album is even though the songs are produced by a multicolored deity descended from some multidimensional universe only Sparks can see – it still holds an unusual catchiness that just pulls you right in, eats you up and spits you out covered in goo. ‘ A Little Bit Like Fun’ has a little echo of Bobby Conn and Kate Bush with 80’s Bowie in a twisted kind of way and ‘Life With The Macbeths’ is akin to the amalgamation of all the emotional Queen songs ever written, with some beautifully tasty operatic stage vocals layered over some kind of Danny Elfman soundtrack and is a perfectly fitting end to a quality album. It’s like opening a box of Quality sweets. Open the box!