The fact that Sparks have been continuously making music since 1967, with no acrimonious splits or ill-advised side projects, is remarkable; the fact that they are still making albums this good even more so.
The Mael brothers may perennially be saddled with the “cult heroes” label despite their pockets of commercial success over the decades, most recently with 2017’s Hippopotamus – one of the most acclaimed of their lengthy career – and their collaboration with Franz Ferdinand in 2015.
Even so, their 24th album suggests that they're okay with that classification. These songs are as lyrically witty (even the song titles are classic Sparks, from Sainthood Is Not in Your Future to Please Don't F**k Up My World) and musically riveting as anything that Ron and Russell Mael have composed in the past.
From the blast of saxophone that heralds opener All That, to the synth-led reflection on their native Los Angeles in Pacific Standard Time and the steely electronic undercurrent of iPhone, this is a tracklisting that will keep you on your toes.
Stravisnky’s Only Hit incorporates their trademark dramatic theatrical flourishes, while Onomata Pia best sums up the duo’s appeal, its breezy panoptic pop melody suited to any the past four decades.
Russell’s lyric sheet is as laugh-out-loud funny as ever, too – from the slapstick Lawnmower to the exasperated iPhone, one of the only songs you’ll hear that references both an Apple product and the Gettysburg Address.
Wide-ranging, tongue-in-cheek and melodically potent, Sparks continue to set an example of how theatrical art-pop ought to sound.