11 Songs, 40 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

When Todd Rundgren heard the first demo tape from Sparks—who were then called Halfnelson—he was the only person in the music industry to respond positively to this wacky group of UCLA art students. As a producer, Rundgren shared with brothers Russell and Ron Mael a love for English pop music, complex and witty arrangements, and all manner of studio experimentation. Hence, while Sparks’ eponymous debut could have easily muted their idiosyncrasies, it instead forms a blueprint for all the colorful and creative mischief the Maels would build in the years to come. The wonderful thing about this album is that it contains all the theatrical energy of Sparks’ later years, but within the context of what's still essentially a guitar rock album. You could draw a line from “Wonder Girls,” “Roger,” and “Slowboat” to T. Rex, David Bowie, and Queen, but there's something in Sparks that's at once stranger and brighter than those better-known acts. In a delightful way, the songs sound like the work of daffy scientists, but there are also instances of gloriously gritty rock 'n' roll, including the stunning closer, “(No More) Mr. Nice Guys.”

EDITORS’ NOTES

When Todd Rundgren heard the first demo tape from Sparks—who were then called Halfnelson—he was the only person in the music industry to respond positively to this wacky group of UCLA art students. As a producer, Rundgren shared with brothers Russell and Ron Mael a love for English pop music, complex and witty arrangements, and all manner of studio experimentation. Hence, while Sparks’ eponymous debut could have easily muted their idiosyncrasies, it instead forms a blueprint for all the colorful and creative mischief the Maels would build in the years to come. The wonderful thing about this album is that it contains all the theatrical energy of Sparks’ later years, but within the context of what's still essentially a guitar rock album. You could draw a line from “Wonder Girls,” “Roger,” and “Slowboat” to T. Rex, David Bowie, and Queen, but there's something in Sparks that's at once stranger and brighter than those better-known acts. In a delightful way, the songs sound like the work of daffy scientists, but there are also instances of gloriously gritty rock 'n' roll, including the stunning closer, “(No More) Mr. Nice Guys.”

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