Friday, August 20, 2021

Sparks - Past Tense, The Best Of Sparks [2019] (3 x CD's)



Sparks - Past Tense, The Best Of Sparks [2019] (3 x CD's)

Past Tense is a career-spanning collection by the provocateurs of pop - Sparks.  Masters of reinvention, with an unappeasable ambition and a ravenous hunger for the now, Sparks – brothers Ron and Russell Mael – have been creating eye-poppingly brilliant pop music for more than 50 years. PAST TENSE: THE BEST OF SPARKS is an immaculate lesson in how to stay consistently interesting for fifty years. With sleeve-notes by Simon Price*, each track is hand-picked by Ron and Russell to best epitomise the era of Sparks from which they are drawn - forerunners of art rock, inventors of the synth duo, masters of new wave pop, Europop experimentalists and self-revisionists, in the 21st century they pioneered the electronic opera before delivering 2017’s pop masterpiece Hippopotamus.  This is a treasure! (Amazon)

The Los Angeles sons, the Mael brothers Ron (mustache) and Russell (mullet) are an integral part of music for the past fifty years. Joined through blood, the two artists work as an independent musical machine who have created a stunning body of work. Perhaps even up there with influential acts such as Kraftwerk, Velvet Underground, what may sound astounding is simply fact even though, at times they are not as recognizable as that very influence they cast. Sparks were simply innovators, and remain to be, incorporating styles such as synth pop, new wave, post-punk, and alternative music stretching further into indie and even goth. The lessons they taught the music world has been picked up by a wide range of singers and bands including- New Order, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Sonic Youth, Nirvana and Björk. Which is why a retrospective is not only welcomed but essential for both fans and attracting curious newcomers. 

The aptly titled Past Tense is fifty-eight tracks (triple cd version) covering the outfits twenty-four studio albums. The set kick-starts faithfully with 1967’s “Computer Girl” although recorded under the name Urban Renewal Project. From there through Halfnelson’s “Wonder Girl” and into the greatest album name of all time;A Woofer in Tweeter’s Clothing. “Girl from Germany” and “Beaver O’Lindy” both representative of that early burst of creativity. From there moving into the sonic treatments of “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us”, which is new wave, glam, hair metal all rolled into one. With that voice of Russell soaring against the strange intense creations of Ron. The songs roll out across the first disc taking in cuts from Indiscreet, Propaganda right up to the close of the seventies, and the Sparks collaboration with Giorgio Moroder on Nº 1 in Heaven.  The bands disco adventure stretches into disc two, for those who may feel the first incarnation, like so many others, is the best, here’s the thing, they retain quality throughout. Not hinged on one era the ideas with a tongue-in-cheek humor continue. The consistency within the outfit runs through their output with a few collaborations notably the Go-Go’s Jane Wiedlin on “Cool Places” and more interesting “Singing In The Shower” with French pop outfit Les Rita Mitsouko. 

With extravagant adventures into concept pieces with the neo-classical Lil’ Beethoven represented with “Suburban Homeboy” and the art rock of “Dick Around” from 2006’s Hello Young Lovers. From here we come right up to date with the engrossing The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman along with the acclaimed collaboration with Franz Ferdinand in FFS on “Johnny Delusional”. Ending with their most recent, the sharp pop of Hippopotamus and the 2017 Record Store Day release “Check Out Time 11AM”.  This collection acts as a celebration, a reminder of the vast depth of quality Sparks have created, and thankfully continue to. (



Track lists


01 Sparks Computer Girl 3:12

02 Sparks Wonder Girl 2:19

03 Sparks (No More) Mr. Nice Guys 5:47

04 Sparks Girl From Germany 3:29

05 Sparks Beaver O'Lindy 3:45

06 Sparks This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us 3:03

07 Sparks Amateur Hour 3:35

08 Sparks Here In Heaven 2:46

09 Sparks Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth 2:29

10 Sparks Something For The Girl With Everything 2:16

11 Sparks Achoo 3:32

12 Sparks Get In The Swing 4:06

13 Sparks In The Future 2:13

14 Sparks Looks, Looks, Looks 2:34

15 Sparks I Want To Hold Your Hand 2:55

16 Sparks Big Boy 3:28

17 Sparks I Bought The Mississippi River 2:28

18 Sparks Occupation 5:13

19 Sparks Those Mysteries 5:00

20 Sparks Tryouts For The Human Race 6:07

21 Sparks Beat The Clock 4:23


01 Sparks The Number One Song In Heaven 7:27

02 Sparks When I'm With You (Single Version) 4:06

03 Sparks Tips For Teens 3:33

04 Sparks Funny Face 3:26

05 Sparks Angst In My Pants 3:28

06 Sparks I Predict 2:52

07 Sparks Sherlock Holmes 3:36

08 Sparks Cool Places (with Jane Wiedlin) 3:23

09 Sparks Popularity 3:51

10 Sparks I Wish I Looked A Little Better 2:59

11 Sparks With All My Might 3:42

12 Sparks Change 5:25

13 Sparks Music That You Can Dance To 4:22

14 Sparks So Important 4:31

15 Sparks Singing In The Shower (with Les Rita Mitsouko) 4:23

16 Sparks National Crime Awareness Week (Psycho Cut) 3:29

17 Sparks When Do I Get To Sing 'My Way' 4:37

18 Sparks (When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing (Radio Edit) 3:46

19 Sparks Let's Go Surfing 5:02


01 Sparks Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat 3:35

02 Sparks The Calm Before The Storm 4:03

03 Sparks It's A Knockoff 3:42

04 Sparks The Rhythm Thief 5:20

05 Sparks My Baby's Taking Me Home 4:43

06 Sparks Suburban Homeboy 2:57

07 Sparks Dick Around 6:36

08 Sparks Perfume 4:59

09 Sparks Islington N1 2:34

10 Sparks Good Morning 3:54

11 Sparks Lighten Up Morrissey 4:15

12 Sparks Two Hands One Mouth 5:25

13 Sparks Piss Off (Original Sparks Version) 4:21

14 FFS Johnny Delusional 3:12

15 Sparks Missionary Position 4:18

16 Sparks Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me) 4:32

17 Sparks I Wish You Were Fun 4:04

18 Sparks Check Out Time 11AM 3:33




  1. Thank you for this marvelous collection, BB. Music would be much different these days, if there is no Sparks.

    1. Hi StoneRose,
      You are welcome. The Sparks lit a spark for me too.


  2. Thanks! I'm a big Sparks fan and think that this particular
    collection makes a great introduction to the work of the Mael
    Brothers over all these years.

    1. Hi Crab Devil,
      This set is great considering it covers their 24 albums over the 58 tracks. You do get a sense of their outstanding work. It leaves you wanting more.


  3. For some reason, I never expected to see the Mael brothers here... this - and the film - is going to be excellent, Butter. And you've just provided any early Christmas gift for my older brother, who introduced me to Propaganda back in the mid-70s... still one of my most favorite albums. Cheers, generous sir!

    1. Hi Aging Child,
      The Mael Brothers are underrated IMO. They deserve to be given a bigger appreciation. I think the video is excellent and makes you want to explore there work more. And this set covers a lot of ground. Enjoy the memories... Ohh, and Merry Christmas to your older brother.


  4. Thank you Butterboy! I do not know much about the Sparks, so you are giving me the opportunity to check them out. Very nice! Also a big Thank You for your work on the august charts compilation. Wish you all the best, Alfred.

    1. Thanks Alfred,
      September is coming soon...