|Sparks (Russel and Ron Mael) circa 1974.|
This is where I slowly attempt to route the driving playlist somewhere new in my August musical trip. First, though, I have to get through a few checkpoints. All of the previous songs were instantly recognizable as driving songs and serve to warm you up to the path ahead. Hailing from Los Angeles, Sparks can prepare you for anything, they started out as a damn great psych band, then evolved into a damn great glam band, which then morphed into a damn great post-disco band, and then liquefied into a damn great whatever-the-hell is this band. My two picks of the day “At Home, At Work, At Play” the hard driver, and “Equator” the oh so sly meditative track, capture how great it is to sometimes take some side streets.
“At Home, At Work, At Play” from 1974’s Propaganda album, toys with many ideas, the main one being trying to actually roundup someone who never has time to do anything. Matching this idea of compacting your time to meet her in between, is the music which keeps rocking ever so more densely. Sparks is a group known, rightfully so, for their insanely funny wordplay and equally complex short pop songs. This track plays like a personal satire of their own style.
Literally, singing at an insane speed, Russell tries to play catch up with the extremely fast guitar playing of his band. As soon as he thinks he’s caught up, Ron’s electric piano gamely pops up, to musically taunt Russell, and races away again full speed ahead. Likewise, when you as a listener think you got the melody pinpointed Sparks just quickly shifts it on you as well. Its such a fun track because it speaks of games people play when they race each other to any destination. If, you’re really good at it, you know which side streets to take when the main highway gets congested. Sparks, for damn sure, was good at playing it with us the listener.
Isn’t that like the modern traveler? We all have our GPS (internal and external), telling us how to get somewhere. However, if something happens that renders it inoperable, we’re totally lost on how to get there because of our growing over-reliance on it. I mean, sometimes you gots to use the old noggin’ to navigate through to a set destination. Thankfully, we have bands like Sparks tunefully reminding us to wise up before we’re left by our lonesome.
Bonus track: Check out this great concert video of Sparks in 1974. So much Mael…