If anyone is still keeping count, Hippopotamus is Sparks’ twenty-fourth album – and their first in eight years. And what can Mael brothers Ron and Russell serve up on their twenty-fourth that hasn’t already been paraded on the previous twenty-three? Why, more of the same delicious idiosyncratic operatic seasick-giddy pop nonsense/ genius, of course.
With tracks such as the grandiloquent Stravinsky-meets-Wagner title track and IKEA-referencing Scandinavian Design, the casual listener is reminded quite what a debt Franz Ferdinand (for one) owe these charming latter-day sonic Picassos – the quirky, lively beats and oddball vocals throwing beach-perfect harmonies and intricate, layered ideas sporadically into the mix. Just the titles alone give enough material for several novels of top-class mystery and intrigue: the jaunty Bummer, The Amazing Mr. Repeat, the fast-paced So Tell Me Mrs. Lincoln Aside From That How Was The Play?, the suitably histrionic Life With The Macbeths.
There’s no room here for the faint-hearted, every note plucked is a heart string torn asunder, every theatrical gesture a magnanimous sweep to the gallery. Clever, articulate and big dumb and sparkly, the Mael brothers are still pulsating, foot to the floor, full throttle.