Saturday, June 15, 2013

Sparks - In Outer Space

Following their 1982 album Angst In My Pants (click here for that review), Sparks came back with In Outer Space. This month we celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of this 1983 record. It reached number 88 on the US Billboard Hot 200.

Side one opens with “Cool Places”, a duet with Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Go’s single. As a single, it went to number 49 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 13 on the Billboard Dance chart. The song features an infectious beat and synth hooks that instantly put me in a great mood.

The lyrics of “Popularity” instantly bring to mind folks hanging out in high school, even though I never was part of the popular clique back then. This song kind of summarizes that imagery that folks have of the popular people.

“Prayin’ For a Party” juxtaposes worship with an evening throw-down with entertaining results. It has one of those choruses that you will find stuck in your head all day if you let it.

The opening of “All You Ever Think About is Sex” reminds me of someone crushing plastic bottles, which is funny since plastic bottles were not so common in 1983. It then shifts into a bopping tune about a girl who has one thing on her mind and the guy who is just fine with that.

“Please Baby Please” spins the convention with a song about a highly sensitive and romantic male who begs his woman to treat him better.

Side two starts with “Rockin’ Girls”, an ode to seventeen year old groupies. I like how it mixes a classic 60’s rock feel, ala Rickie Nelson or Roy Orbison, with a new-wave groove.

“I Wish I Looked a Little Better” features some cascading keyboards that instantly brings to mind the 1962 song “Palisades Park” by Freddy Cannon.

Wiedlin also provided vocals on “Lucky Me, Lucky You”, a song about a couple resigned that their relationship will eventually bottom out and are content to do nothing to prevent that from happening.

“A Fun Bunch of Guys From Outer Space” is perhaps an answer to the question “who the heck is this band?”. I like how the vocals are done in a perfectly blended tone, as if they are one with an alien hive-mind.

The album closes with “Dance Godammit”; its cold, nearly emotionless vocal delivery mocks the critics who at the time were implying that new-wave music was too machine driven.

I knew of Sparks and a few of the tracks from In Outer Space thanks to the local college radio station I listened to thirty years ago. I am surprised it took me until five years ago to pick up a good bit of their catalog though. Their synth sound is right in line with what I got into back in the 80’s. The songs here are catchy, fun and very danceable, with some tongue-in-cheek sarcasm thrown in for good measure.

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