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Sparks - Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

1.47 | 13 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
1 stars While In Outer Space wasn't my ideal kind of music, it nonetheless exuded competence and class, and I feel like I could play good chunks of that album in the presence of others without feeling sheepish. This album, alas, retains almost none of the good from In Outer Space and magnifies much of the bad (potential or realized) from that album, and the result is a disaster. This album is an excruciating listen in the same way that so many other 80s synth pop albums are excruciating, mostly due to the keyboards (too loud and glossy, and the "dramatic" moments are ridiculous) and production (way too shiny), but also due to songs that sound like they could have come from just about anybody at the time. Also, the lyrics have very little wit in them, whether in their central topics or in the small details, and Russell doesn't do much to try and bring some life to them.

I kinda sorta like three songs, though in each case I badly wish to hear them in different contexts. The opening title track, once I cut through the BIG DRAMATIC keyboard chords (which open the song and are featured in an extended instrumental break), manages to have some genuine tension built up in its minimal verse melody, with a clear release in the "All I hear is polite applause/APPLAUSE APPLAUSE APPLAUSE APPLAUSE APPLAUSE" part of the chorus. The Plagiarism version, which swaps out the 80s production for strings, is much better, but this is ok enough. "With All My Might" is a weirdly earnest ballad (despite lyrics that repeatedly reference fighting dragons), but the keyboards are relatively unobstrusive, and the vocal melody is rather lovely, so it's a keeper as well. And finally, "Sisters" appears to be about a threesome with two sisters and the possible complications of such an excursion, with a chorus that has just enough in the way of twists to make it clearly stand out from the bulk of the album. Also, it briefly features Russell taking on the voice of the sisters in his falsetto, and the moment is worth a smirk.

Oh, but the rest. There's some enjoyment to be found in the blatant Prince ripoffs that are "Pretending to be Drunk," "Progress" and "Everybody Move," but in every case I'd rather listen the Purple One himself, so that resemblance doesn't work in their favor. "Love Scenes," "A Song That Sings Itself" and "Kiss Me Quick" are mid-tempo synth-heavy ballads that I'd never let myself be caught dead listening to if they came from anybody else, and I'll be happy to never hear them again. And finally, the two-part instrumental "Sparks in the Dark" (part one precedes "Everybody Move," while part two closes the album) is a go-nowhere waste of time, a dumping ground of disconnected synth riffs loosely formed into something coherent over a monotonous beat.

I originally planned to give this a slightly higher grade, but as I thought more about the contents of the album, I came to realize that I liked the "good" parts less than I thought I did and hated the bad parts more than I thought I did. Perhaps a Sparks diehard or somebody with a strong tolerance for the kind of production approach used on this album will be able to enjoy this, but as somebody who's neither, this album is death.

tarkus1980 | 1/5 |


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