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Sparks - Terminal Jive CD (album) cover

TERMINAL JIVE

Sparks

 

Crossover Prog

2.49 | 7 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
2 stars A decent sequel to No. 1 in Heaven this is not. Inspired by the success of their collaboration with Giorgio Moroder, the brothers headed into the studio expecting a similar dynamic. Instead, Moroder, a busy man in his own right, offloaded much of the production and general direction responsibilities to Harold Faltermeyer, who would become best known in later years for the "Axel F" theme (from Beverly Hills Cop) and the "Top Gun Anthem" (from Top Gun). I can't say for sure, because I wasn't there, but it really sounds like Harold didn't have much interest in accommodating the eccentricities of the band's general approach to music, because aside from the lyrics, this album gives the sense of all of the band's personality getting squeezed out in the name of making the allbum accessible. Naturally, the album sold horribly, and the band's relationship with the Moroder clan of producers came to an end.

The album does open and end on fairly high notes. "When I'm With You" (a minor hit in France, because why not) takes a very Mael approach to expressing that he becomes a better person when he's with the person he's writing about (sample lyric: "I never feel like garbage when I'm with you/I almost feel normal when I'm with you"), and it has lots of little interesting bits, like the repeated "with you"'s at the end of each verse or the various synth lines that come in and out over the simple beat. There's nothing resembling the power of the typical material from Heaven, but it's still rather nice. The closing "The Greatest Show on Earth" is also pretty interesting; I get the feeling that the most striking part (the nagging "Steady as she goes/She's the greatest show") came from Moroder or Faltermeyer and not the Maels, but the other sung parts feel like they probably came Sparks themselves, and they stand out well from the instrumentation (which isn't terrible but definitely sounds like a compromise between the two main parties).

But the rest? There are some interesting lyrics here and there ("Rock and Roll People in a Disco World" is an amusing stab against rock dinosaurs grabbing onto the world of disco in an attempt to stay relevant, and the lyrics to "Young Girls" and "Noisy Boys" are horrifying enough in tandem to be noteworthy), but much of this album consists of music that I'd never consider listening to in another context. "Just Because You Love Me" doesn't even have interesting lyrics to go with its pedestrian everything, and while "Rock and Roll People ..." has strong lyrics, I just feel gross listening to it. "Young Girls" sounds in spots like a Kimono-era track trying to break out of a disco cocoon, but that's not enough to offset the other major aspects of the song (at least "I Like Girls" was a rollicking good time). "Noisy Boys" does have a rousing happy chorus after the pseudo-tense verses, and I do find myself attracted to a couple of the keyboard parts in the verses, but it stands out as much because of all that came before it as because of its own merits. As for "Stereo," it has its one-word chorus and a bunch of fairly pointless guitar chords (I forgot to mention that there's plenty of relatively simplistic guitar on this album, but nobody is credited for it; I'm assuming it's from Faltermeyer until otherwise informed), and nothing else.

There's also an instrumental version of "When I'm With You" that closes out side one, but it's pretty pointless given that the vocals were the best part. Overall, then, this is a massive disappointment. I knew that Ron Mael had said that he considered this one of the band's weakest albums, but when I bought this I hoped that the step down from Heaven would be a relatively mild one. There are some good tracks (I'd say that "When I'm With You," "Noisy Boys" and "The Greatest Show On Earth" are definite keepers), but a Sparks album should offer so much more than this does. Unless you're a fanatic, don't bother.

tarkus1980 | 2/5 |

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