|SPARKS - BIG BEAT
REVIEW BY MARTIN TRUKSA
Sparks : Big Beat (Island Records) 1976 :-
It is ironic that 'Big Beat', Sparks least successful album for Island Record, includes 2 of their best known songs, 'Big Boy' and 'Fill Er Up'. Both songs feature in the 1997 movie blockbuster Rollercoaster. To this day Rollercoaster is a popular choice of in-flight movie on many transatlantic flights, much to Ron and Russell Mael's dismay. To quote Russell:-
"Rollercoaster proves that you have to be continually careful of what you do. You never know what's going to last and what's going to fall by the wayside, and man, does that last!"
'Big Beat' has another connection with the movie world. In 1976 Ron and Russell were asked by legendary French film director Jacques Tati to work on his new film project, Confusion. The film was to feature accident-prone bachelor, 'Monsieur Hulot', a comic character made famous in two of Tati's movies from the 1950s. Unfortunately the film was never made, as Tati died shortly after. However 'Big Beat' features a song, 'Confusion', which was inspired by the project.
Encouraged by their chart success in the UK, Ron and Russell returned to the Sates in 1976 with the intention of recording a more American sounding album. 'Big Beat' was recorded in Los Angeles with a group of session men (including bassist Sal Maida, formerly with Milk 'n' Cookies). The album is very mainstream and lacks the quirkiness of earlier Sparks LPs.
'Big Beat' is an attempt by Sparks to be taken seriously and at times it almost sounds like a punk album. The majority of the songs are built around very basic chord sequences and are catchy and easy to sing along to. However the lyrics are serious and downbeat.
Produced by Rupert Holmes, 'Big Beat' features more guitars than before and fewer of Ron's keyboards, but the guitars can hardly be heard as they are buried deep down in the mix. In fact Rupert Holmes has stripped the 'sound' down to a bare minimum, and as a result the music sounds 'tinny' and lacks depth or personality. This is not a problem, however, as the songs themselves are very strong, with great melodies and catchy hooks. So despite the questionable merits of the production, 'Big Beat' is yet another great Sparks album.
For lyrics to Sparks 'Big Beat' click on the link to the side.
BIG BEAT (ISLAND RECORDS) : Big Boy, I Want To Be Like Everybody Else, Nothing To Do, I Bought The Mississippi River, Fill-Er-Up, Everybody's Stupid, Throw Her Away (And Get A New One), Confusion, Screwed Up, White Women, I Like Girls
Sparks : Big Beat (Home)