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New Tracks, my impressions
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SteveBoyce
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Joined: 17 Jan 2002
Posts: 571

PostPosted: Sun Mar 26, 2017 2:00 pm    Post subject: New Tracks, my impressions Reply with quote

Hippopotamus - the only really outstanding track of the four imo. Touched by genius, but a mistake as a single.
Piaf and Missionary - both really good songs
What the Hell - Ok but nothing special for me

I think as always with Sparks 90% of people will not hear what is lying behind, but 10% of people will be touched by it.
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deadcalm
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Joined: 26 Feb 2004
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 26, 2017 2:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hippopotamus could be some huge hit if written with kids in mind... its almost like a nursery rhyme... it gets into your head no doubt about that... bit of a novelty like "Here comes Bob" ..

What the hell is a crack at a stadium anthem.. my least fav of the four...

Edith Piaf I like.. Might get into the french charts. like to hear a french version...

Missionary is a throwback song . Guitar rip at the end reminds me of a Propaganda, Indiscreet track...
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TommyGun
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 27, 2017 4:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think what the hell.. has a Big Beat vibe to it, i dont think its Bad but would perhaps be better if it was a minute shorter.

Edith Piaf is lovely and catchy and Thats that.

Hippo is a weird but very enjoyable blend of ffs and hyl. I Love it!

Missionary is probably my favourite so far, reminded me of Police encounters or indeed Propaganda/indiscreet

So much for my thoughts
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lemonjellydude
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Joined: 02 Apr 2010
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 28, 2017 8:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hippopotamus is a fantastic track, great comeback for them and the album cover is amazing.
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ETJOHNS
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Joined: 05 Nov 2013
Posts: 28
Location: Detroit, U.S.A.

PostPosted: Tue Mar 28, 2017 3:58 pm    Post subject: New Tracks, my impressions Reply with quote

I have to agree with Steve and deadcalm re Hippopotamus as a misstep as a single. I don't think I would be alone among Sparks fans, along with the general public in saying "What the @$!...". It could break new ground for them into music for children (notice I don't say children's music, as that implies "lesser than" & not as good) by lightening it up a little bit, a new era from "Who Don't Like Kids?" I will say I am grateful to the Maels for their inclusion of culture and history in their songs. I would never have learned about Tsui Hark, Edith Piaf, and the play Titus Andronicus if it wasn't for them. In this way I have been a kid on their lap, and one of great things about Sparks is their humor and unashamedness in putting juvenile and fun elements in their songs, that are ok to love as a grownup. I am last person to want them to stop having fun (because that would be end of their greatness & who they are).

Last edited by ETJOHNS on Tue Mar 28, 2017 10:29 pm; edited 1 time in total
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De Sade
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Joined: 11 Jun 2008
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 28, 2017 7:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hippo - definitely a grower. Catchy yes, but to be honest it's not really pop or rock, is it? A children's song with Hieronymus Bosch and 'taking the piss in it?!? Impossible to pigeonhole as ever
What the hell? - Okay. probably a good live song with its title asking to be sang back
Edith Piaf - I like this one but nothing outstanding
Missionary position - My favourite so far, but that's because it does sound much like track from Propaganda, or FFS
I'm enjoying the rocky sound of the band; just hope they are to the fore on the album too
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allydodd
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Joined: 12 Dec 2004
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Location: Scotland

PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2017 4:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In that ageing Glaswegian concert hall, it felt like Sparks were tickling us with hook after hook, bombarding us with treasure after treasure from their mysterious musical box.

Amazing vocals and brilliant songwriting is what we've come to demand from Sparks albums. Evidently, there's going to be much, much more.

Hippopotamus is indeed crazily eccentric and spirited Sparks. Ron is the Salvador Dali of the pop world, and there's a good chance someone's coined this phrase before me.

What the Hell is it This Time? Contrasting gravity of the subject matter with some more playful verses, its got quite a dramatic undercurrent.

Fallen love with Edith Piaf!!!

Missionary Position again beautiful vocals and music.. a magical touch to what could be a crude subject. Listening to the song itself is a nighttime pleasure in itself... an infectious one but in the right way...

Such a contrast of contenders for singles excites in me the certainty that this is going to be an incredible album. Optimistic that Edith Piaf Said it Better could be a huge hit in lots of places. If I'd chanced upon Missionary Position on the crackly radio, I would have assumed it was a massive hit from a hit musical.
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Turtle152
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Joined: 24 Dec 2015
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Location: Pittsburgh, U.S.

PostPosted: Thu Mar 30, 2017 7:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

allydodd wrote:
... an infectious one but in the right way...


I hope it's just their song that is infectious!
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allydodd
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Joined: 12 Dec 2004
Posts: 664
Location: Scotland

PostPosted: Fri Mar 31, 2017 4:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Turtle152 wrote:
allydodd wrote:
... an infectious one but in the right way...


I hope it's just their song that is infectious!


Ha ha Ha! A good morning is when a catchy sparks song is incessantly running through my mind. All the better when its brand new and sounds like a No1!
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Careless Man
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Joined: 03 Jun 2016
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Location: Fife

PostPosted: Sun Apr 02, 2017 12:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hippopotamus - Catchy tune but not an obvious single for me. When I tell people that I am going to a Sparks concert all they ever say is "Oh yes I remember This town." This single will not change that stereotypical attitude for non believers unfortunately.

What the hell is it this time? - Good strong song with a very catchy chorus but not a Sparks "classic" still light years ahead of most of the rubbish going around just now.

Edith Piaf - Wonderful song, one of the classic Sparks songs that you know the very first time you hear it that it is something very, very special. Clearly shows that talent like this only comes along once in a lifetime and I am very privileged to be one who appreciates it.

The Missionary Position - One of the best Sparks songs ever, up there with anything from Kimono, Propaganda and Indiscreet and that is saying something.
As soon as I heard this in Glasgow I was hooked and have played it almost non stop since. It has everything that a Sparks song should have, catchy chorus, falsetto vocals, crashing guitars, Ron's unique keyboard sound all building to a massive crescendo, I can't praise this highly enough and am delighted to see the guys go back to their roots.
This would make a killer single and deserves to get the chance to be heard by the masses.

Can't wait to hear the rest of this album, if these tracks are anything to go by it will be huge.
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freeke
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Joined: 05 Mar 2009
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Location: Turku, Finland

PostPosted: Sun Apr 02, 2017 2:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Careless Man pretty much summed up my feelings about the new tracks in the previous post.

Hippopotamus is a fun track, but it sits right in the middle of the album, and I very much doubt it gives away much about the album as a whole.

What The Hell......? Like the title track, it's modern-day Sparks. Basically, it's a one-chord song, but cleverly done. I almost get the feeling these two tracks represent the direction that interests the brothers the most.

Edith Piaf. Russell's look when he sang: "my hunch was right". Magic. Could be a hit somewhere.

Missionary Position. Well, it's just great. Obviously, R&R try hard to stay current, and all that, and then they write a song like this, and everyone including me goes "It's classic Kim/Prop/Ind- Sparks. Bottom line, it's a QUALITY song.
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mael22
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Joined: 25 Feb 2011
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 10, 2017 10:20 pm    Post subject: New Tracks, my impreressions Reply with quote

ron mael is my god !i dont like to judge , but i just hope every song doesnt start with piano intro .
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Oscar
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Joined: 10 Oct 2002
Posts: 219

PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 12:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Missionary Position -- I kind of groaned when I first heard the Pachelbel's Canon chord progression, but the infectious energy won me over. The studio version doesn't quite have the same energy, but it's still a great, fun song. The falsetto of "It's a private matter as to frequency..." over the guitar when all the other instruments drop out is classic Sparks. Reminds me most of "Happy Hunting Ground," another stomping track 2.

Edith Piaf -- Easy to compare this to "When Do I Get to Sing My Way," but thematically it's even closer to "I've Never Been High." It's almost like a better rewrite of that song. I've seen one or two advance reviews mention that the album lacks any songs with emotional resonance, which makes me think the reviewers weren't listening to the lyrics of this song.

Scandinavian Design -- Pleasant but minor. A couple of clunky lyrics. First use of slide guitar on Sparks song since "Saccharin and the War"? Maybe there's something on Woofer I'm forgetting.

What the Hell? -- I wasn't too impressed with the live version of this, and thought the lyrics veered a little close to...religious humor, but the production saves the studio version, and it's really catchy for a one-chord song.

Hippopotamus -- This is nice, but I haven't felt the need to re-listen to it very much. One thing I'll say for it is that it's not really like anything else in the Sparks catalog. Some of the other new songs feel a bit like throwbacks, but this one is totally fresh.

I Wish You Were Fun -- Perfect mix of music hall and 80s pop, with just the right amount of melancholy in the melody.

Mrs. Lincoln -- Right when this one started playing on that Swiss radio broadcast, I didn't know it was Sparks, and I thought "This sounds like a newer band that could've been influenced by Sparks." Impressively crams the full title of the song into the chorus without making it sound awkward. Cool, darker-sounding song.


Can't believe no videos of live versions of Giddy Giddy and Probably Nothing have shown up on youtube. Anyone who was at any of those shows have any impressions to share?
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freeke
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Location: Turku, Finland

PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 3:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some interesting points there, Oscar. Yes, MP starts like The Canon, but throws in some chords at the end that would surely have been "verboten" back in the day.

Dying to hear Probably Nothing, I Wish You Were Fun, Mrs Lincoln and Giddy Giddy. Like you said, surprised the live ones haven't surfaced on YouTube.

The thing I'm really excited about is how one reviewer mentioned the second half of the album has a more sinister bass-heavy vibe. Sounds good to me.
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Physicality
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Joined: 20 Jan 2006
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Location: Dublin

PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 7:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think there has been a lot of harsh judgment on the new material. For sure, they are not new Amateur Hours etc, but
the songs are very strong to be honest. Well written and well crafted.

I think Missionary Position is a classic Sparks song and has a great uplifting feel to it, plus good lyrics. Who is writing anything like this now?

What The Hell is unrelenting and I think it works. What's wrong with religious humour? I don't get that criticism? It's not poking fun at religion, it is ridiculing some irritating/demanding guy more than anything. The lyrics are VERY Sparks.


I heard 'I Wish You Were Fun' in Stockholm and really liked it. Very catchy song. Scandinavian Design is lovely with the slide guitar. Not sure if that will be in the studio version. The song itself, really grows on you with a few listens.


The only criticism I might have, and that is a common thing with Sparks, is the production can be a bit lacking. But I think they like to have that thin sound. With the previous albums, they get away with it a bit more, because they don't rely on drums & guitar to carry the songs. When you add them to the mix, it's more difficult to get the balance right

This material is defintiely stronger than Exotic Creatures of The Deep, for sure.
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Oscar
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Joined: 10 Oct 2002
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 1:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

freeke wrote:
Some interesting points there, Oscar. Yes, MP starts like The Canon, but throws in some chords at the end that would surely have been "verboten" back in the day.


That's true. It also just occurred to me that the progression may be purposeful as it ties in with the baroque and neoclassicism references in the lyrics and their relationship to the "tried and true" theme.

Physicality wrote:
I think there has been a lot of harsh judgment on the new material. For sure, they are not new Amateur Hours etc, but
the songs are very strong to be honest. Well written and well crafted.


Oh, to be sure, the songs are all wonderful in their own way. Any criticisms are really just relative to the rest of the Sparks discography, which generally sits so high above other bands' that any nits to pick are minor when taken at scale. Couldn't be more excited to have new Sparks music to listen to and I can't wait to hear these songs in the context of the full album.

Physicality wrote:
What The Hell is unrelenting and I think it works. What's wrong with religious humour? I don't get that criticism? It's not poking fun at religion, it is ridiculing some irritating/demanding guy more than anything. The lyrics are VERY Sparks.


I guess my impression after first hearing the live version of the song, and not being able to make out all of the lyrics, was basically that the theme seemed like something out of a sort of lame cartoon my religious uncle might share on facebook. But you're right -- after hearing the studio version, the different angles became apparent, and it is of course up to Ron's usual standards.
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sandorx
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Joined: 27 Oct 2005
Posts: 59
Location: Sweden

PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2017 6:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

deadcalm wrote:
Hippopotamus could be some huge hit if written with kids in mind... its almost like a nursery rhyme... it gets into your head no doubt about that... bit of a novelty like "Here comes Bob" ..

What the hell is a crack at a stadium anthem.. my least fav of the four...

Edith Piaf I like.. Might get into the french charts. like to hear a french version...

Missionary is a throwback song . Guitar rip at the end reminds me of a Propaganda, Indiscreet track...


To me Hippopotamus sounds like the songs Charlie Harper made for kids in 2Ĺ men. :( In particular "Who barfed in the fish bowl"

I'm not so crazy about the other songs either. And I think it is just a case of self delusion, saying that people who don't like the songs, don't "get them". Even after repeated listening the new material sounds extremely weak, and nowhere near the masterful Exoctic creatures of the deep.
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PeterE
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Joined: 02 Oct 2002
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2017 10:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

it is funny how different impressions can be ...

I do like Exotic, but I do not see any weak material on the new album ...

The title track is a piece of post dada art (nothing childish at
all, sorry sandrox)...

Edith Piaf is perfect in it`s own chanson way ...

"What The Hell.. " a classic

Missionary Position - great, but a bit too 70`s for my taste ..

what I do like on the new album, is the fact that R & R do take care about sound and sounds ...
(the sort of sonic sound with breaks and bridges on What the
The Hell.. for example)

(puls 80 % of the press reviews are more than just positiv)
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Oscar
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 11:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thoughts on the rest of the tracks:

Probably Nothing: Lovely little tune. Jonathan Ross compared it to Sondheim, and I can hear that. Glad that the "jazzy" chords of the last couple Sparks albums are back -- missed them on the FFS album.

A lot of people have mentioned how the lyrics relate to old age and even dementia, but I personally think there's another layer here where the singer is playing up his recent forgetfulness as an excuse not to say something he knows he should say. That just feels more Sparks-like to me. Without that element, it's almost a little too straightforwardly sad?

I also like how this album follows in Propaganda's and Gratuitous Sax's footsteps by opening with a short track that leads into a big number. Really nice transition into "Missionary Position," and I love that they played the two back-to-back at the Prague show. Hope they keep that up! Itís the new "Propaganda"/"At Home At Work At Play"!

Giddy Giddy: I wasnít quite sure what to make of this at first. Itís like Weird Al meets Nintendo music meets Oingo Boingo. (I was also thinking it had a Tim Burtony vibe, but then I realized that's sort of the same thing as Oingo Boingo.) Anyway, itís a fun tune and itís grown on me. The conversation between the two giddy townspeople cracks me up. Next time someone asks me how I am, I want to say "Oh, I'm pretty giddy."

Unaware: The most psychedelic Sparks song since the first two albums. Love Russell's singing, and when I first heard him going on about dragonflies I thought the lyrics were going to be straight-up psychedelia too. I still don't have a lyrics sheet, so I'm not sure Iíve caught everything, but Iíve gotten most of it and honestly the lyrics kind of rub me the wrong way. I feel like there's a misplaced misanthropy here that's really uncharacteristic of Sparks. I know they've said they don't want to be political in their music, but I actually think this wouldíve been a great place to get political AND do it in a Sparksy way. Instead, I get more of a "These kids today with their damn smart phones" impression from this. It's a great concept for a song, but I guess I like the idea more than the actual execution.

Bummer: I keep going back and forth on this one. On one hand, it reminds me of "The Very Next Fight," where itís a song about a generally unpleasant character without too much of that Sparksian wit about it. BUT I find I can enjoy it more by imagining it as a kind of sequel to the "When Do I Get to Sing My Way" video, with Ron and Russell playing the two characters. Or maybe as something out of a musical version of a British comedy like Peep Show. And musically it's just a cool song, with really well-deployed falsetto. Right now, I'm into it.

I Wish You Were Fun: I already talked about this one, but I'd say now that this is probably my favorite song on the album? It's got that perfect mix of ache and humor that I'm always looking for from music.

So Tell Me Mrs. Lincoln: More to say about this one. Fitting this joke into a song must have been a challenge Ron set for himself after "How Do I Get to Carnegie Hall?" LikeÖ"ok, how do I take this one step further?" I like how Russell's got the same kind of vaudevillian delivery here on the chorus.

Also, it's a damn shame they havenít been playing this one live. It seems tailor-made for a live setting. REALLY hope they add it to the setlist by the time I see them.

When Youíre a French Director: It's weird how the appearance of an actual accordion on just one song helps give the whole album more of an Indiscreet quality, but I'll take it. Otherwise, not my favorite song on here, but I might appreciate it more once I see the lyrics.

The Amazing Mr. Repeat: I wasn't too keen on this one a first, mainly because I thought the lyrics were kinda dumb. Freeke's comments helped me appreciate it ó it's just so catchy well-written, and the lyrics are part of the fun.

A Little Bit Like Fun: Again, the production is superb. Overall it reminds me of a cross between Telex and 10cc. Has to be one of the most directly emotional songs theyíve ever released, right? I mean, itís literally about emotions. And I personally find it very moving. Itís like that song "Happy" but for actual adult humans.

Life with the Macbeths: I love this one without having much to say about it. Melody + chord progression and arrangement take me back to "Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth." Thematically itís maybe a bit like "Simple Ballet," but, of course, much darker, and I think there's a lot more going on here. Can't wait to get the official lyrics. "Some not that into murderÖ"
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Dal
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Joined: 18 Apr 2003
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 14, 2017 9:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oscar wrote:

Yes, you've missed a few key lyrics in "Unaware", so don't get rubbed the wrong way by it. It's actually quite a touching song about a parent regarding the innocence of a baby in a cot and wishing there was some way they could prevent them from becoming more aware of the unsavoury and complicated world they're actually in.
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