Daily Mael 1994

Lo-fi recording on the Gratuitous expanded 25th anniversary reissue, where, on the comments on the album, Russell writes, Ron “sings.” Indeed. Low key and dour reflection on the calming effects of the aging process, but not bad.

Fairly innocuous cover of traditional Christmas fayre. Recorded for a Simon Mayo radio breakfast show.

Later to materialise with a completely different version on ‘Plagiarism.’ This instrumental with a hint of Tangerine Dream type noodlings and OTT drums leaves me cold.

Perfect way to end the album. The opening and closing tracks doing just what it says in the title.

Not what you’d imagine. Although the backing is a bit lackadaisical, the melody shines through and overall wins the day. The words are riotously off the wall. Accusing ‘people named Kelly and Joe’ of being ‘too Wagnerian’ is just bizzare. And brilliant. Chock full of gems, this one. The whole scenario of imagining going surfing whilst languishing in ‘a room only Dickens could love, wearing moth-eaten sweaters and gloves,’ is fantastical.

This is too fabulous. A song about the ghost of Liberace being taunted by a hostile crowd who shoot at him, have him ‘hung in effigy’ and throw beer cans at him until they are eventually won round. God knows how. The range of extravagant plots and celebrity references throughout the Gratuitous Sax album is amazing. Killer chorus too.

Basically just the film director Tsui Hark introducing himself and saying what films he’s made over a thumpingly good backing beat, piano and synth. The producer Bill Kong is in there too somewhere. Nice unusual departure for the movie mad Mael boys here. Good to hear some authentic Cantonese on a dance track.

‘What am I supposed to make of this thing?’ Good question. I love it. Generic plinky plonky 90s piano, syndrums and basic donk don’t spoil the tune. A deft ploy pulling Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner into a song about media bias and the role of everyone’s favourite/most hated aunty, the BBC. Snapped up for a fiver and brilliantly considering its political direction – ‘go left or righter?’ Genius.

‘One thing is clear, the atmosphere is thin and it’s cold.’ So true. A beautifully icy and smouldering number with a liddle bidda politics thrown in. It’s perfectly weighted and not too arch. When Sparks get their hands on a well worn cliché, they hammer it home until it produces its own magic. Sheer luxury from start to finish.

Sinister little drama of furtive goings on, ‘an afternoon tryst’ and a screaming woman. The shrill repetition of the title sends shivers through your ears. Whilst unnerving, it’s also darkly comic like so much of Sparks best material. ‘In my wildest dreams, I never thought of Warren Beatty as a rival.’

The multi layered and electronically affected vocals, along with the subtle repetitive keyboard motifs make this come alive. Another hypnotic movie influenced Sparks dreamscape. Really gets under your skin and swims through your head. Gorgeous. The laid back vibe is even reflected in the lyrics: ‘We cut each other so much slack that we were both falling over backwards.’

Knowing that a new Sparks is soon to emerge, you can’t help thinking that this could have been stripped back further and the disco beat dispensed with. It should be powerful, yet I feel a tad underwhelmed. I like its directness, though. Nearly rapping but not quite. Entertaining rhythm and rhymes. When it works, it really works, as in, ‘It’s bigger than Fuji, bigger than Fuji.’

Splendidly sumptuous. Another Sparks classically epic filmic ballad with humorous twists. Love the way he imagines his elevation to such an honoured position and how the fame would inevitably ruin him as depicted in so many scenes of artistic domestic chaos: ‘This home which once was serene, now is home to the screams and to flying plates and shoes.’

30 seconds of lovely a cappella, double entendre and, eventually, gratuitous sax. Nice.

















1967 – 1969