What does that song mean?

Sparks Is Not Crying in Their Latte

Posted Jul 31st 2023, 17:48 by Penguin Pete

Simon says the band of the day is Sparks! Sparks just this year – 2023 - released their studio album The Girl Is Crying in Her Latte, a title absolutely drenched in coffeehouse post-COVID weltschmerz. Critics from Metacritic to Pitchfork have raved about how palatable and fresh Sparks has remained over the years. We got the title track from that video coming here with, well, typical arthouse cheekiness you’d expect from Sparks:

You might, hearing these guys out of the blue for the first time, mistake them for a Euro-dance band somewhere in Duran Duran’s neighborhood, or perhaps good New York highbrows hanging around the orbit of Mothersbaugh. If this is your first time encountering Sparks, please fasten your seatbelt and keep your legs and arms inside the vehicle until the song catalog comes to a complete stop.

The Same Sparks as “This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us” (1974)

Yes, we mean that Sparks, and seriously we’re as surprised as you that more entities haven’t jumped on that name. “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us” was Sparks’ earliest hit, albeit not in the US but charting all over Europe, most notably in the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK. Note that Sparks, fronted exclusively by Mael brothers Russel and Ron since day one, are from Pacific Palisades, California.

Seeing as how I grew up in S. Cali. and local radio back in the 20th century used to mean “playing local bands favorably,” I was likely exposed to Sparks on the radio a bit more than your average listener. But at the same time, I was a kid, and like all kids in the ‘70s I hardly cultivated a taste for glam-disco. Fortunately Sparks is one of those groups who only travel from genre to genre like a panhandler’s wagon camp, pitching a tent in whatever genre’s the thing to do this decade. If you don't like their current album, you'll love their next one!

By the time they hit “The Number One Song in Heaven” (1979) they were charting on the UK Singles’ chart at an impressive #14, but this was 1979 and by that time heavy metal and punk were competing for mainstream America’s attention, whilst 10-year-old me would have responded to this song with rude finger-mouth-gagging noises. But don’t worry, the ‘80s were coming and Sparks would pull a Blondie, abandoning disco for New Wave.

The Same Sparks as “Eaten by the Monster of Love” (1982)

By now we should explain something about Sparks: They are called “the best British band from America,” because they were more influenced by early Who, Pink Floyd, Kinks, and the Move. Which also explains why a bunch of nerds at UCLA were so darned popular internationally while still remaining obscure at home. Except, I repeat again, in local southern California, where not only were they getting airplay for songs that never even charted, but were getting soundtrack work in Hollywood. “Eaten by the Monster of Love” is an impossibly genre-less earworm song that was screwed into your brain if you ever watched Valley Girl (1983) or Cabin Fever 2 (2009). In 1983, their song “Get Crazy” was even used in the movie of the same title, Get Crazy (1983). An otherwise forgettable teenage comedy, but still, they’d come a long way from roller-disco at Xanadu central.

Pegged their genre yet? The ‘80s New Wave contained an element of throwback nostalgia for the ‘60s, especially for intentionally-retro acts like B-52s. “Monster of Love” sounds like a ‘60s song updated. Then you come all the way around to “Mickey Mouse,” off the same album in 1982:

...and now, no mistake, that has to be an attempt to out-Oingo-Boingo Danny Elfman, doesn’t it?

Do you suppose Sparks would have been done throwing curve balls by this point and settled into a nice ‘80s pop band? Oh no, time and Sparks marched on…

The Same Sparks as “Existential Threat” (2020)

My God, Sparks, what did the 2020s do to you? Yeah, kinda darker than their care-free days of posing as bride and groom on their album covers back in the ‘80s. This is a collaboration with the legendary animator Cyriak, pulling all the stops out on his unhinged visuals as always.

Of course, I have skipped over a huge chunk of Sparks’ story. They continued charting healthily into the 1990s, not only in the UK but here and there in the US too. They’ve continued soundtrack work in film and TV, peppering each decade with a few albums. Keep exploring Sparks, there’s surprises in store yet! You may now exit the singles catalog - why not visit the Sparks funhouse? (warning: YouTube iceberg videos are notoriously bollocks, but hugely entertaining anyway)

Anyway, as Porky Pig says, th-that’s all folks! But seriously, don’t cry in your latte. That waters it down. In fact, why don’t you just stick to espresso like us real coffee drinkers, what are you even doing?



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