|SPARKS - GRATUITOUS SAX &
REVIEW BY MARTIN TRUKSA
Sparks : Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins (Logic) 1994 :-
The question that immediately springs to mind is, 'What the hell were Sparks doing between 1988 and 1994 ?' - a six year gap between the release of their previous L.P., 'Interior Design', and this one. The answer is ... creatively, not a lot. Aside from composing the music for a film by Hong Kong film director Tsui Hark. And releasing an awful single with synth maestros Finitribe, 'National Crime Awareness Week'.
In my opinion 'Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins' is a major disappointment and one of my least favourite Sparks L.P.s. It sounds like a second-rate 'Pet Shop Boys' record. Loud, brash, monotonous techno. Russell spends more time speaking on this album than on any other; I am a bit underwhelmed by the spoken vocals, interchangable riffs and too-corny-by-half song titles. The Maels appear to be defiantly struggling against easy nostalgia by conjuring up an album of sickly sweet contemporary synthpop. Ugh!
Russell ponders when do I get to sing 'My Way' ?
However I concur that 'Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins' is peppered with cleverly crafted hooks and colourful rhythms that bounce and jitter with pristine charm. The album represents only a slight departure from the Maels' earlier 'Moroder' produced L.P.s, maintaining the same highbrow witticisms, but with more lavish arrangements and with Russell's falsetto frantically cutting through the beats. Many of the songs are tight, pulsating with orchestral and electronic tones that keep the listener interested throughout. And if the point of music is to dance, well then this album scores plenty of points on that basis alone. And this disc has many dance music fans.
Check out the sleeve below of an unreleased 'Let's Go Surfing' single that was due to be released in France. Alas it never saw the light of day.
Three songs from 'Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins' were released as singles, namely 'When Do I Get To Sing My Way', 'When I Kiss You I Hear Charlie Parker Playing' and the clumsily titled 'Now That I Own The BBC'. Despite being released in a multitude of mixes ... and extended mixes ... and remixes of extended mixes ... and despite much publicity and radio airplay, the three singles only just managed to scrape into the bottom reaches of the UK 'Top 50' charts.
Highlights of the CD are single 'When Do I Get To Sing My Way', the ultra hypnotic 'Frankly, Scarlett, I Don't Give A Damn', and the eerie 'Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil' . The atmosphere of the latter song is thin and it's chorus is cold..
Click image for album lyrics
Pictured above is Sparks' re-issue of 'Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins'. Initially available only through the Official Sparks Fan Club, this was the first CD in the new Sparks: The Collection range. Presented in a digi pack with sleeve notes written by Daryl Easlea. Probably worth buying for the enhanced packaging alone..
SPARKS : Tracks - Gratuitous Sax, When Do I Get To Sing My Way, When I Kiss You I Hear Charlie Parker Playing, Frankly Scarlet I Don't Give A Damn, I Thought I Told You To Wait In The Car, Hear No Evil See No Evil Speak No Evil, Now That I Own The BBC, Tsui Hark, The Ghost Of Liberace, Let's Go Surfing, Senseless Violins
Sparks : Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins