Published May 15, 2008As '80s dinosaurs Heaven 17, ABC and Kim Wilde squeeze into their outfits for Wembley Arena's nostalgia tribute to shoulder pads, Sparks are busy rehearsing obscure 1972 b-sides in prep for their 20-night residency at London's Carling Academy Islington.
The series of gigs will culminate at Shepherd Bush Empire with the concert debut of their new CD, Exotic Creatures of the Deep, released May 19. Yes, 21 nights - one for each album of their illustrious and lengthy career. Talking to the band this morning, Exclaim! has learned that each gig will have a one-song encore highlighting an obscure track or b-side. The first show this Friday (where they'll be performing, Halfnelson, their self-titled album recorded before the band was even called Sparks) will be the song "Arts and Crafts Spectacular," the first song the band ever recorded that can't be found on any of their releases.
England went Sparks-crazy in 1974 for their now-signature track "This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us", the U.S.A. flipped for "Cool Places" in 1983 and Germany made 1995's "When Do I Get To Sing 'My Way'" a top-ten smash. Sparks have been "discovered" somewhere every few years, a remarkable feat for a band active for almost 40 years. And if recent activity is any indication, a global love affair is underway. The Dirtbombs and Electric Soft Parade have issued Sparks cover versions, and new Sparks' single "Lighten Up, Morrissey" pokes the man who brought them renewed attention when they were invited to play the Morrissey-curated Meltdown, in London.
"We feel like a Sparks tribute band. We've never played live half the songs we're learning now. It sometimes feels like psychotherapy" Russell Mael, the singing half of Sparks says from his London hotel. He and his keyboardist brother, Ron, have hardly stood still long enough to re-evaluate their past, but that's changed in the most extreme way possible as 250+ songs are polished for presentation.
Geek rockers Young Knives and "classic" (their word) indie band Electric Soft Parade - both Mercury Prize nominees and Sparks acolytes - are among the support acts recruited via You Tube audition. We can only hope Sparks change moustaches and hair-do's to correspond with the eras covered.
Stay tuned for more coverage from Sparks' ridiculous London residency, including a full Q&A with Russell Mael.