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THE SPARKS BROTHERS gets 7.5/10 Sparks joy


Directed by Edgar Wright

Starring Ron Mael, Russell Mael, Beck, Mike Myers

7.5/10

Sparks are like the Schrödinger’s Cat of bands. Simultaneously obscure, but well known amongst music circles, Russell and Ron Mael have had an influence across five decades of music. If you know, you know, and this Edgar Wright documentary is a comprehensive look at their career, and the seismic influence they’ve had on popular culture.

This is an exhaustive study of the band, going album by album, covering every major period of their 25 studio albums (that momentous number doesn’t include compilations or live albums). To be frank, at two and a half hours it’s almost too much, but the band requires that depth of study. Throughout their career they have managed to reinvent themselves, creating a very different sound, and each iteration has its fans and major influences.

At heart an art pop band, they have had an effect on new wave, disco, pop, techno, comedy, and rock opera. They’ve inspired a diverse range of talent from The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beck, Björk, Franz Ferdinand, Mike Myers, Erasure, and Weird Al Yankovic. Sparks have always been ahead of the next wave of music, never riding the crest to fame and riches. However with a legacy like that, it’s very easy to get many of their admirers on screen to talk about the effect their music has had on them.

Honestly, this is a great pairing of subject and director. Edgar Wright’s quirky syncopated style matches well with the Mael brothers’ offbeat brand. He gets the humour at the heart of Ron’s lyrics, but also understands that there is an emotional core underneath it. Wright presents us with a documentary that’s extremely amusing, but captures the pathos of a band that has often been on the brink of popular acclaim, yet has had to sacrifice that chance for artistic integrity. It may have given their work more longevity, but it has certainly come at a commercial and personal cost.

This documentary will work if you are a long term fans, or first time listeners, leading you through the extraordinary weird world of Sparks.

DAVID O’CONNELL

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