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Sparks - Angst In My Pants CD (album) cover

ANGST IN MY PANTS

Sparks

 

Crossover Prog

2.86 | 10 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
3 stars While there are certainly many differences between the two albums in terms of specific implementation details (this one is a bit noisier and more robotic in both the synth and guitar sounds, for instance), and while there aren't any songs on this album that are analogous to songs from its predecessor, this album nonetheless strikes me as the same kind of album as Whomp. Once again, the band and its producer, Reinhold Mack (who was also responsible for contemporary early 80s Queen albums) decided to frame itself as a cross between a normal 80s synth pop band and a novelty act, and once again the result is decent but underwhelming. A lot of people will disagree with this assessment, of course; I've found that this album tends to be a bit of a fan favorite, which tells me that people take a bit of a "so what if it's novelty if it's good?" approach to the album. Here's the thing; if we agree that the band was a step above a pure novelty act in its prime (or, to put it another way, the band was in an interestingly ambiguous zone between novelty act and not), it should then follow that a transition into a more overtly novelty approach (especially if accompanied by a clear decline in the number of interesting ideas per song and per album) would represent a significant regression for the band. It's pretty good, but little more than that.

As with the previous album, though, the fact that I don't really love any of the songs and have reservations about the album as a whole doesn't mean that I don't get some enjoyment out of the various tracks. Some of them kinda stink, of course; the title track (about diarrhea and unwanted erections in inappropriate situations) features nothing especially interesting on top of the beat; "Instant Weight Loss" (about a guy who loses weight after a girl calls him "Fats" but then gains it all back) isn't interesting beyond a quiet recurring synth line; "Tarzan and Jane" lasts three minutes but feels twice as long thanks to some obnoxious ideas (such as the "oo-wee-oo-wee-oo-wee-oo-wee-oo" bit). I more or less like the rest, though. "I Predict" should annoy the crap out of me, but somehow it doesn't; it's very open about the fact that it isn't really based around melody (it's loudly chanted lyrics over a pounding 80s beat), and the lyrics, full of all sorts of predictions of dubious quality, somehow work perfectly in the context of the song. Plus, it may be a cheap gag, but repeatedly singing "And this song will fade out/and this song will fade out ..." and then not fading out the song makes me smirk every time, so I'm ok with the song.

There are a couple of faux-serious anthemic songs in the middle, and they're definitely the best songs on the album. "Sherlock Holmes" is a throwback to early 70s glam-rock anthems (especially from T. Rex; it should be noted that Mack had worked with T. Rex a few years earlier, so this isn't a shocking development) seems to be about somebody trying to woo a girl with a serious Sherlock Holmes fetish, culminating in a frustrated nonsensical plea of "I can dance like Sherlock Holmes/I can sing like Sherlock Holmes/But can't be Sherlock Holmes." "Nicotina" is a big huge bombastic ode (featuring all of the most overblown drum, keyboard and guitar sounds the band can muster) to a poor cigarette, whose fate was bound to the same path (an agonizing death at the moment of being smoked) as so many of her kin before and after have trod. It's completely ludicrous, but it's a track I don't mind coming back to repeatedly, and that doesn't happen a tremendous amount in the 80s with Sparks.

The other five tracks are solidly in the "novelty" category, and they're mostly ok. "Eaten By the Monster of Love" sounds a tremendous amount like contemporary Queen (not a surprise given the producer), and the "Don't let it get me/Don't let it get me" chorus is kind of a crackup (the verses are fun as well). "Sextown USA" (which pretty much has the exact lyrics you'd expect from an early 80s Sparks song with this title), "MIckey Mouse" (which is sung from the perspective of the title character) and "Moustache" (which has great lyrics; Ron writes of the glories and downsides of having a moustache and addresses the issue of his various choices of moustache style) are all up-tempo and moderately memorable, but the pattern of "fast song over pounding beat with robot synths dumped in occasionally" wears me out after a while. As for "The Decline and Fall of Me," I somewhat enjoy the song, but the lyrics make it such a blatant novelty exercise that my enjoyment is significantly tempered.

Essentially, my impression of this album (especially in conjunction with the previous album) is that the band has become a bit of a second-rate self-parody at this point. Mind you, the prime version of the band was good enough that it could absorb such a downgrade and still make music that's worth hearing, but it's a downgrade all the same. Still, while I wouldn't offer a strong recommendation for the album, I wouldn't offer a strong recommendation against it either. After all, it does have a couple of minor classics, and the rest of the album is acceptable background if you're in the mood for the kind of approach the band chooses to take here.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |

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