Friday, August 1, 2014

Sparks - Pulling Rabbits Out of a Hat

This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of Pulling Rabbits Out of a Hat, the thirteenth studio album from Sparks. It spent four weeks on the US Billboard Album chart, peaking at number 202.

While I was familiar with some of the band’s previous albums, this one was entirely new to me with this review. Let’s dive right into it.

Side one opens with the title track. “Pulling Rabbits Out of a Hat” has a frantic, urgent dance beat to it that instantly grabs me. The lyrics tell of a guy who does everything he can to impress his love though it all seems to be in vain.

“Love Scenes” is a bouncy synth number about keeping a relationship from ending.

“Pretending To Be Drunk” was the second single. It has a rockabilly sound, sort of blending Lindsey Buckingham’s “Holiday Road” with Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”. I definitely like it a lot.

The third single was the very danceable “Progress”. It has a mechanical feel to it, from the sharpness of the music to the clipped vocal delivery. The effect works well on this commentary on people trying everything to improve their looks.

The first single “With All My Might” reached number 104 on the US Billboard chart and number 28 on the US Billboard Dance chart. Unlike the previous four tracks, this one is presented with a much slower sway to it. While not a bad song itself, for me it is my least favorite of the tracks on this first half of the record.

Side two starts with the brief instrumental “Sparks In the Dark (Part One)”. It really is just a prelude to the next track.

“Everybody Move” is very catchy with a simple yet very effective chorus. It will get stuck in your head, whether you want it to or not.

“A Song That Sings Itself” is built upon a cascading keyboard line that I enjoyed. The lyrics are a bit of a meaningless ramble for me though. I guess they could serve as a commentary on pop music at the time.

“Sisters” is about a guy who is happy to be in an open, amicable relationship with two female siblings.

The B-side to the second single was the mid-tempo “Kiss Me Quick”.

The album closes with “Sparks In the Dark (Part Two)”, a two and a half-minute instrumental track that appears to have been the foundation for the earlier “Everybody Move”.

If I had heard Pulling Rabbits Out of a Hat back in 1984, I certainly would have enjoyed it. It has all those great synth and dance elements that I was into during my college days. To use the title of an earlier Sparks’ song, “I predict” this one will end up in my music library in the near future.

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