Vinyl to Pre-Order: The Sparks Brothers (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
This week’s Vinyl Pick is a box set is from my favourite music documentary release of 2021: The Sparks Brothers, directed by Edgar Wright. A Waxwork Records exclusive, The Sparks Brothers (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) is a 4LP collection pressed onto 180 gram marble vinyl and features 42 tracks spanning the five-decade – and still going strong – music career of LA duo Sparks.
Sparks consist of brothers Ron and Russell Mael. Known for their quirky music, eye-catching live performances and opposite aesthetics, when you see Ron and Russell for the first time on TV you never really forget them. My dad once told me the story of the morning after the band’s Top of the Pops debut in 1974, where he discussed ‘the keyboard player who looked like Hitler’ with his friends at school.
Though once you do delve into their discography, the pay-off is tremendous. They have one of the most prolific discographies in pop music and the utterly inspiring ability to transform while staying true to their creative instincts over their 25-album catalogue. The story of Sparks is the story of constantly striving for commercial success and managing to stay true to oneself over the years, despite the frequent setbacks and pressures from the music industry to commercialise. Yet, as the documentary illustrates, perhaps merely the ability to do what you love for five decades and to be ever-evolving on your own terms is the true pillar of success. And with this measure in mind, Sparks have never been short of successful.
Edgar Wright & The Sparks Brothers documentary
Edgar Wright has directed some of my favourite films, including the Cornetto Trilogy films (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End). With every directing credit, he always ensures the film has an excellent soundtrack. That symbiotic relationship between film and music is a given with any Edgar Wright film. So when it was announced that his next project would be a music documentary about a band as entertaining yet elusive as Sparks, I knew it would be in safe hands.
And I was right. The documentary is a deep dive into every album, along with every moment of joy/tribulation that formed Sparks’ five-decade career. With unparalleled access to Ron and Russell Mael for the first time, fans were able to hear their story. And not only that, but the documentary features commentary by famous creatives who are also big fans, such as Flea, Duran Duran, Alex Kapranos, Jack Antonoff, Mike Myers and Neil Gaiman. This approach makes for a truly fitting tribute to a band that has influenced many of our favourite artists today.
The Sparks Brothers (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) – A Waxwork Records exclusive
The Sparks Brothers, along with all of the great music and interviews, is also a very artistic and creative piece of work. It features newly-commissioned artwork, puppet work and animation. In a similar fashion, the Original Soundtrack is full of great artwork and exclusive content, including liner notes by Edgar Wright and Sparks, an eight page booklet and a poster, all housed in a deluxe heavyweight gatefold jacket designed by Matt Needle.
The 42 tracks cover the full scope of Sparks’ career, also featuring live performances and their collaborative project with Franz Ferdinand, F.F.S. This includes Sparks classics such as ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us’, moments of pure experimentation like ‘The Number One Song in Heaven’, where Sparks got to work with electronic music legend Giorgio Moroder. It also ventures into the duo’s musical rough patch in the late 80’s/early 90’s, ending with their beautiful comeback track ‘When do I Get to Sing ‘My Way’?’ and their formidable offerings in the mid-2010s, such as ‘Johnny Delusional’ and ‘Edith Piaf (Said it Better than Me)’. I also found gems that I had never heard before, like ‘Slowboat’,’When I’m With You’ and ‘Johnny Delusional’. Sparks were my most-played artist on Spotify in 2021 – that was a big reason why.
In summary, The Sparks Brothers (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) is an ideal purchase for not just any Sparks fan, but also anyone who likes quirky, multi-faceted and tongue-in-cheek music. It is an offering that is as creative and deluxe as the documentary it comes from. This takes you through the very veins and songwriting mechanics of Sparks, leaving you to love and appreciate them even more than before.
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