I’m new to the Sparks phenomenon. Maybe it’s because I’m not as cool as Flea, Beck, Jason Schwartzman, Neil Gaiman or Amy Sherman-Palladino who are longtime followers … or maybe I didn’t have someone like Edgar Wright to take me by the hand and introduce me me in her claque. But now that I’ve seen Wright’s new documentary The Spark Brothers I am a believer.
Russell and Ron Mael – yes, they are real siblings – have been making their own music for almost fifty years. They are iconoclasts through and through, have changed their music style several times, refuse to repeat themselves, and are ready to alienate some fans by adopting radically new ideas. In doing so, they have remained true to themselves and often use devious, satirical humor to deal with commercialization and loyalty. (I get the impression that they were always suspicious of the widespread approval.) While he cloaked himself in some sort of mysticism, Russell played the nominal role of the inconspicuous singer while his dry brother Ron wrote the songs and played the keyboards.
Edgar Wright traces her career from the beginning to the present, using archive footage and testimonials from longtime fans and former bandmates to explore her aesthetic principles … as well as her career ups and downs.
If you’ve never seen them before you might be wondering what their music is like. It’s hard to answer because her style has changed so often … but it’s always lively and humorous. Her predilection for film, especially French new wave cinema, made her ideally suited to the music video era. However, plans to collaborate with various directors have failed, but now they have teamed up with Leos Carax for the feature film Annettewhich is due this summer. Now that I’ve tried Sparks, I can’t wait to see it.