Sparks - Hippopotamus album review

New album from idiosyncratic Mael brothers

Cover art for Sparks - Hippopotamus album

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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.

Everett True

Everett True started life as The Legend!, publishing the fanzine of that name and contributing to NME. Subsequently he wrote for some years for Melody Maker, for whom he wrote seminal pieces about Nirvana and others. He was the co-founder with photographer Steve Gullick of Careless Talk Costs Lives, a deliberately short-lived publication designed to be the antidote to the established UK music magazines.