Hasta Mañana Monsieur

The American pop group Sparks may be an acquired taste for most Americans. American audiences are famously averse to complexity in their music. Give ’em their rock’n’roll straight up, no ambiguity, and not too many big words please. Everything about Sparks is catnip for the British, anathema to Americans; their elevated sense of camp and their jokiness, to their ambiguous appearance, with Russell resembling a taller, more effeminate Marc Bolan, and Ron looking like that creepy guy you see on the bus sometimes whose mustache hints at dark pastimes.  In other words, Americans don’t want to buy records from a guy who sings like a girl and a guy with a Hitler mustache. It’s too confusing. If only hipsters had been around in the seventies things would have been different. Now there could conceivably be a market for an ironic pop song about dumb American tourists trying to bang foreign girls while name-dropping Immanuel Kant, if only for novelty value. Think of Sparks songs as little humorous vignettes with music. If it sounds as though enjoying Sparks requires a very high degree of sophistication, that’s partly right. Their music certainly works on many levels. Some of the jokes are more sophisticated than others, but no sophistication is required to appreciate the music itself, which is unfailingly catchy and uptempo. In fact, on a basic level, it’s music that would appeal, and does, to a small child. It’s full of peppy beats, simple melodies and Russell’s voice, which is reminiscent of a cartoon animal’s, high-pitched and genderless – all of which are things small children adore. I adored it as a small child and only years later grew to understand the content, some of which is mildly adultish.