Home > News & Reviews > Sparks

Sparks - Hippopotamus (Album Review)

Monday, 11 September 2017 Written by Jacob Brookman

Sparks are an acquired taste. Joyously idiosyncratic and defiantly throwback, their 23rd album, ‘Hippopotamus’, showcases the arty quirkiness that long-time fans love while driving home their fundamental creative philosophy: classically informed songwriting infused with a camp, fun intellectualism.

The title track and album centrepiece drives this message home. It opens with a jagged vocal motif above synth strings: “There’s a hippopotamus in my pool [...] how did it get there? I don’t know.” The song then takes us through a melange of lyrical ideas that riff on that initial multiple rhyme: ‘Hieronymus’ ‘Titus Andronicus’, ‘a woman with an abacus’.

The track is one of the best examples of Sparks’ distinctive compositional approach. It has clearly been built from the joy of the word ‘hippopotamus’, and the scattergun approach to messaging is not an afterthought. It is the very essence of the song.

They are a group whose lyrics are often pointedly throwaway - perhaps to undermine a frequently highbrow musicality that recalls Abba or, more accurately, Bach and Pachelbel.

Actually, the creative influences on ‘Hippopotamus’ appear to come as much from outside music as within. The leftfield duality recalls conceptual artists Gilbert & George, while the surrealist humour always seems at one remove from Pirandello’s Theatre of the Absurd. This is rendered most immediately on a track titled So Tell Me Mrs. Lincoln Aside From That How Was the Play?.

Another that demonstrates this is Missionary Position, which opens with the glorious stanza: “It’s a little retro and a bit passé / but you know you make her feel a-okay / and she feels alright, the stars are bright, the missionary position!”. It is a good example of the challenge in humorous songwriting. Straight-up gags wouldn’t work on repeat listens, so humour is mined from assertive philosophical posturing delivered with that loony Russell Mael falsetto.

The biggest challenge with ‘Hippopotamus’ (as with Sparks generally) is that their music is so varied and eccentric that it requires an unusual complaisance in the listener. It requires a willingness to try anything and appreciate Sparks as curators as much as artists. It’s like going to one of those ungodly world cuisine buffets and being offered every food under the sun when you really just wanted Italian.

Sparks Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Mon September 18 2017 - NORWICH Waterfront
Tue September 19 2017 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Boiler Shop
Wed September 20 2017 - EDINBURGH Queens Hall
Fri September 22 2017 - MANCHESTER O2 Ritz
Sat September 23 2017 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Sun September 24 2017 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Institute
Tue September 26 2017 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Wed September 27 2017 - LONDON O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire
Thu September 28 2017 - LONDON O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire

Click here to compare & buy Sparks Tickets at Stereoboard.com.





Let Us Know What You Think - Leave A Comment!




Related News

Sparks Share New Track Check Out Time 11am, Announce UK Tour Supports
Tue 22 May 2018
Sparks have shared a new song and announced the supports for their UK shows.
Sparks Tickets For May UK Shows On Sale 9am Today
Fri 19 Jan 2018
Sparks will return to the UK in spring. Sparks tickets go on sale at 9am today, priced 27.00/29.50 plus fees.
Sparks Announce May UK Shows
Tue 16 Jan 2018
Sparks will return to the UK this spring for a trio of shows.
Fleetwood Mac Announce Summer European Dates Including London's Wembley Stadium
Mon 22 Oct 2018
Fleetwood Mac have announced a short summer trek.
Mark Knopfler To Bring 'Down The Road Wherever' World Tour To UK And Ireland In May
Mon 22 Oct 2018
Mark Knopfler will bring his Down The Road Wherever world tour to the UK and Ireland next spring.
Thunder Announce New Album 'Please Remain Seated' And February UK Tour With Dan Reed
Fri 19 Oct 2018
Thunder have announced the release of a new LP and accompanying tour dates for early 2019.
Lynyrd Skynyrd Announce Farewell Summer UK Arena Shows
Tue 06 Nov 2018
Lynyrd Skynyrd will return to UK arenas next summer for their Last Of The Street Survivors farewell tour.
Fleetwood Mac Add Second London Wembley Stadium Show - Tickets On Sale November 16
Tue 13 Nov 2018
Fleetwood Mac have added a second London show to their tour plans.
 
< Prev   Next >