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10 Essential Sparks Songs

Sparks are rock’s perennial outsiders, coming of age as ardent Anglophiles in hippy-dippy late-‘60s L.A. before finding an audience for their erudite art-pop overseas. Of all the preening glam rockers beamed into British living rooms during the early ‘70s, Sparks undoubtedly cast the strangest figures, even if they shirked the gender-bending costumery flaunted by peers like Bowie and Roxy Music. Though Russell boasted de rigueur Bolan curls and a glass-shattering voice that made Freddie Mercury sound timid, his pop-idol visage was undercut by a disarming bug-eyed intensity. The buttoned-up Ron, meanwhile, was the ultimate anti-rock-star, perched behind his keyboard like a schoolmaster at his desk, his creepy toothbrush moustache and disinterested scowls oozing an authoritarian disdain for the kids in the crowd. Exhibiting a performance style more in tune with vaudeville tradition than pop-star posturing, the Maels seemed less like leaders of a rock band than a 1940s comedy double act who were teleported three decades into the future, thrust onto a soundstage and forced to perform their idea of rock‘n’roll on the spot. (The band’s very name evinces their fondness for old-school slapstick—after releasing their debut album in 1970 as Halfnelson, they switched to Sparks as a sly nod to another band of brothers.)

via Pitchfork.