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Sparks Kimono My House album cover
4.10 | 100 ratings | 5 reviews | 36% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1974

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us (3:02)
2. Amateur Hour (3:33)
3. Falling In Love With Myself Again (3:03)
4. Here In Heaven (2:46)
5. Thank God It's Not Christmas (5:07)
6. Hasta Manana Monsieur (3:43)
7. Talent Is An Asset (3:20)
8. Complaints (2:48)
9. In My Family (3:46)
10. Equator (4:41)

Total time 35:49

Bonus tracks on 1994 & 2006 reissues:
11. Barbecutie (B-side) (3:08)
12. Lost And Found (B-side) (3:19)

Extra bonus track on 2006 remaster:
13. Amateur Hour (Live, Fairfield Halls 09/11/75) (4:45)

Line-up / Musicians

- Russell Mael / lead vocals
- Adrian Fisher / guitar
- Ron Mael / keyboards
- Martin Gordon / bass
- Norman "Dinky" Diamond / drums

Releases information

Artwork: Bob Bowkett @ CCS with Karl Stoeker (photo)

LP Island Records ‎- ILPS 9272 (1974, US)

CD Island Masters ‎- IMCD 198 (1994, UK) With 2 bonus tracks
CD Island Records ‎- 984 341 7 (2006, Europe) Remastered by Daryl Easlea with 3 bonus tracks

Thanks to ? for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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SPARKS Kimono My House ratings distribution

(100 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(36%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(43%)
Good, but non-essential (12%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (6%)

SPARKS Kimono My House reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by kenethlevine
3 stars It's not that art rock didn't have its smarmy and oh so clever proponents - QUEEN, 10CC and to a large extent SUPERTRAMP gushed with disingenuous parody that ultimately mocked itself as much as societal mores. SPARKS was an American version of same, but they actually seemed to be living their personae, at least if the album covers are anything to go on. There is a consistent hit hard but lightly character in Sparks that makes them far more endearing than the above, even if less remembered. They took their humor seriously, and their attitude hinted at punkish devil may care, without looking down on their audience.

I admit that I thought their singer was a woman when I first heard them, and the Maels are quite androgynous in appearance as well. On brilliantly breathless tracks like "Amateur Hour" and "Talent is an Asset" (with the immortal line "We are his relatives, that's parenthetical"), they do better drag than most drag artistes I have seen, which is doubly amazing since I have to imagine the visuals with Sparks. Other major successes here are the hit opener "This Town ain't Big Enough" and the PROCOL HARUM like "Hasta Manana Monsieur".

Combined with SPARKS' somewhat frenetic style can also be discerned a love for nostalgia, at that time being music of the 1930s and 1940s, but more than just the dipping of the toes we saw with Queen. I hear it drifting in and out of most tunes, particularly "Falling in Love with Myself Again" and "Complaints", fully integrated into the modern rock ensemble which attached equal importance to the entire group. The last few songs of the original LP seem more like add-ons and simply don't stick, especially "Equator", which lacks the punchiness of most of the material.

Being a fan of more serious sounding music, and finding little of it here, I have to confess that this group really found a niche and worked it. There was a consistency in their collective vision that could only come about if they weren't working hard at it, which was another manner in which they foreshadowed the coming movement. But unlike punk, these guys actually had talent and knew how to use it, which is an asset in my book. 3 solid stars.

Review by Rune2000
4 stars Sparks have apparently been a part of the Prog Archives family for quite some time. Unfortunately, no one have had the pleasure of telling me about it until now. All I can say now is --- let the reviewing begin!

I've been a huge fan of the band ever since I've heard Kimono My House sometime around 2001. After 10 years, 11 albums and two live concerts, it's safe to say that I'm still very much an admirer of Mael brothers and their crazy project of a band. They've had quite a career over the past 40 years and even though far from everything produced by the band can be considered great/essential, there has always been a certain charisma within the band's work that transcended even the lesser albums.

Kimono My House was the band's breakthrough album and features many of the essential Sparks masterpieces like the anthem This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us and Equator. Both of these compositions pretty much define the band's work in the '70s, but unfortunately the album is far from a perfect experience since it's a bit uneven around the edges and has some filler tracks. Best example of this is Thank God It's Not Christmas, which might seem like quite a fun little track title but it clearly shows that Sparks material from this era wasn't meant to go beyond the 5 minute mark.

Likely there are enough highlights to make Kimono My House a highly recommended release. I would especially like to recommend Hasta Maņana Monsieur and In My Family, two fun and quirky songs that shows us just how versatile the band could be.

***** star songs: This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us (3:05) Hasta Maņana Monsieur (3:52) Equator (4:42)

**** star songs: Amateur Hour (3:37) Falling In Love With Myself Again (3:03) Here In Heaven (2:48) Talent Is An Asset (3:21) In My Family (3:48)

*** star songs: Thank God It's Not Christmas (5:07) Complaints (2:50)

Review by Warthur
4 stars The eccentric Mael brothers - with pinup Russell being one of the most high-pitched male pop singers of all time, and brooding and mysterious Ron lurking behind the keyboards with his Chaplin moustache - are the creative core of Sparks, and Kimono My House saw them fusing their self-deprecating sense of humour with post-Roxy Music art-glam rock to create a bizarre but endlessly fascinating album. The best song is, of course, the opening This Town Ain't Big Enough For the Both of Us, but every other song on the album exudes a similarly hyper-tense air of paranoia, self-doubt, and sarcastic wit. A breath of fresh air in 1974 prefiguring the punk revolution, Kimono My House remains inviting to this day.
Review by rogerthat
5 stars You will occasionally bump into those who lament the contemporary era of music, where good musicians apparently never seem to get popular while in the 70s, apparently again, talent always came to the fore. Well, Sparks is all the proof you will ever need that that is not true. Complex and challenging music finds a limited audience at the best of times, but even with super-catchy albums like Kimono My House, Sparks are not often mentioned as one of THE bands to check out from the 70s.

And that they are, if you ask this partisan reviewer. Singer and songwriter Russell Mael says and I quote, "There was a sense that we were rapidly accelerating into the future, and we wanted to represent that. Rock seemed so old..." Tall claims, you say. Well, those are fairly reasonable claims to be made on behalf of Kimono My House.

As you proceed from Amateur Hour, through Here In Heaven to Thank God It's Not Christmas, the music of Queen and ABBA and new wave in general comes to mind. And consider that Sparks had debuted in 1971 and had a headstart over both of those more popular acts. Even in a decade where the music changed rapidly, the Sparks must have seemed like they were from a different planet. Russell lends his very Mercury-esque, eccentric vocals (or should we say Mercury sounds like Russell?) to a colourful cocktail of 50s and 60s pop and rock and roll and the British glam rock scene of the 70s, adding up to a sound that's really quite unlike anything else you'd hear from that decade.

They also avoid the respective flaws of Queen and ABBA. Where Queen favoured a pastiche approach a bit too much, Sparks treat you to a veritable conveyer belt of unpredictable, smart, tight rock. Or is it pop? Your guess is as good as the band's; studio pop is the best they can manage. As for ABBA, so much irony overflows from the music of Sparks that they are in no danger of trying too hard to please.

At least I didn't have to try too hard to like this album, at any rate. Their first rate songwriting delivers ten slabs of utterly infectious pop that have me completely at their mercy. The 36 minute long album seems to whiz past in a trice and it's time to repeat all too soon. The production could be a bit better but it hardly feels worth complaining about with songs this good.

Some cuts like Falling In Love With Myself Again take a bit longer to grab me but that's about all I can hold against this masterpiece. Sparks are sometimes called postmodern pop and they could plausibly be proclaimed as the postmodern counterpart of the Beatles. If the Beatles expanded the frontiers of pop and rock music beyond anybody's wildest imagination, Sparks offer an alternative to bland, radio-ready pop that doesn't have to involve numerous time signature changes, multiple sounds, long instrumental passages or symphonic walls of sound. Entertaining AND engaging to the core. Five stars.

Review by tarkus1980
5 stars The best Sparks album (by a slim margin over the debut) is also one of the most hilariously front-loaded albums I've ever heard. The first six tracks are all fantastic, albeit all cut from the same stylistic cloth, but the last four (which are also cut from the same stylistic cloth, more or less) are a clear step down, and I always finish the album with a hankering for just one more great track. Still, the highs are so high that I can justify this grade to myself without too much difficulty.

After the first two albums basically went nowhere commercially, the Halfnelson version of the group dissolved, and the Mael brothers relocated to Britain to record with what basically became a revolving door of supporting musicians. The avant-bubble gum sound of the debut and the jangle pop of Woofer were tossed aside, and in their place the band turned to the slickest, richest, most European and least American-sounding glam pop sound imaginable from the early 70s. Yes, the band mixes up the genres that are grafted into this base sound, and there's a good deal of variety in the sounds one finds from song to song (or within a given song), but make no mistake, the band has gone all in on a pretty specific kind of approach. It's one BIG ANTHEM after BIG ANTHEM, driven by Russell singing ridiculous (in a good way) lyrics set to terrific vocal melodies over rich and varied instrumental parts, and if you're into that sort of thing you could find this album a total blast. That said, I can totally understand how somebody could hate this album; it's slick in a way that has little to do with the origins of rock (white men butchering black men's music), and the fact that it often sounds so much like ABBA (whom I quite like, but I can completely understand why somebody wouldn't) means that it can't help but be a polarizing album. Personally, I love the sound when it's firing on all cylinders, but I do get worn down by it, and the lack of as many clever ideas in the last four tracks definitely doesn't help keep me from wilting near the end.

But holy hell, I love those first six tracks. "This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us" is a boring choice for a finalist in the "Best Sparks Song" competition (the choice is boring, not the song), but sometimes things are obvious for a reason. After the gradual fade-in, with Russell singing the first verse over a relatively subdued keyboard part, the song becomes absolutely bonkers and fantastic, with loud guitar riffs, B-Western (the "B" stands for "Best") gunshots, hilariously majestic organ chords, over-the-top guitar wanks, and above all Russell proclaiming bizarre "if we battle I'm going to win" imagery in his own faux-operatic manner. "Amateur Hour" is an up-beat number centered around a guitar line that doubles as the chorus melody, full of variations in tempo and intensity, and with Russell singing an amazing melody about teenagers learning to become good at sex. Best line: "Dance laugh wine dine and talk and sing / But those cannot replace what is the real thing / It's a lot like playing the violin / You cannot start off and be Yehudi Menuhin." "Falling in Love With Myself Again," as you might expect, is a love song for a narcissist, based around a bombastic waltz crossed with what's essentially circus music, and it's impossible for me to not have the chorus echo around in my head afterwards (and fortunately, I'm happy for it to be there).

It's not an easy task to pick out clear favorites out of this group of six tracks, but in giving it some thought, I find myself inclined to pick "This Town ..." and "Here in Heaven." The story behind "Here in Heaven" is great: a Romeo and Juliet pair make a suicide pact, Romeo goes through with it, Juliet backs out, Romeo is kinda sad and kinda pissed off about his situation. In terms of music, the song has long been a favorite of mine for singing in the shower, especially for the fun contrast between the tense descending melody in the verses and the chorus in an appropriate higher register ("Up here in heaven without you/Up here in heaven without you/Up here in heaven without you/It is hell knowing that your health will keep you out of here for many many years), and I've always especially admired the uneven intensity of the instrumentation under the chorus. Best line: "Juliet, I thought we had agreed/Now I know why you let me take the lead."

Up next is a track that I find myself overlooking if I'm not careful, but which is just about as great as the others. "Thank God It's Not Christmas" is a song about how fun life is for somebody on every day except for Christmas, when he has to spend the day with his wife, and the metamorphosis from the loud guitar part that starts the song, to the quieter parts of the verses, to the re-emergence of intensity at the end of each verse, and finally into the enormous chorus, is one of the best parts of an album that's full of great parts. And finally, rounding out this stretch, is "Hasta Manana Monsieur," which basically sounds exactly like ABBA from a couple of years later, except with a slightly heavier bottom. The lyrics are way more hilarious than anything you'll find on an ABBA album, though; they concern a doofus foreign exchange student who fell in love with his host but isn't even sure what language she speaks, so he tries a gibberish mix of whatever terms he can pick up. The best line of the album: "You mentioned Kant and I was shocked, so shocked/You know, where I come from, none of the girls have such foul tongues." Musically, well, I tend to like ABBA, so I like the song, and if you don't like ABBA, you'll probably hate it.

So the first six tracks are amazing, and the album seems well on its way to wedging its way into my top 50 ... but then it kinda loses me. Out of "Talent is an Asset," "Complaints" and "In My Family," I'd say that "Complaints" comes closest to being a great track, thanks to the contrast between the lilting verses and the up-tempo chorus (the middle-eight is a lot of fun too), but it still doesn't quite get to that level for me, and both "Talent" and "Family" (which tend to get mixed together in my head in such a way that I can't always remember which parts belong to which song) strike me as sounding like the album's style was left out in the sun a little too long. The closing "Equator" makes a stab at doing something significantly different, as it's a relatively slow, moody song about a guy realizing that he has no shot of finding the girl he's waiting for (after she told him she'd meet him at the equator, which should have been a clue right there that things just weren't looking his way), but the song just irritates me to no end. Well, not so much the song on the whole as any time that Russell sings the word "Equator," or, as he sings in the chorus (in a layer of echoey falsetto), "Eee-quay-tah, Eee- quay-tah" over and over. It also doesn't help that the song's coda is in much the same vein as the one to "Nothing is Sacred," with Russell singing the word "Equator" a capella and ad nauseum (with occasional interjections of "She said she'd be right there!") over the chorus. What a horrible ending to a mostly great album.

What irritates me most about the drop-off at the end of the album is that the band had some great material in reserve that could have been used instead. The version I have (on a two-fer with Big Beat) contains a pair of fantastic B-sides that would definitely have improved the album with their inclusion. "Barbecutie" is yet more bombastic glam-pop (about a man who's about to be had for dinner), this time put into rocker form and centered around a ripper of a bass riff, and "Lost and Found" is majestic pop (about somebody who finds a lost wallet and feels no remorse for having a good time with it), heavy on guitar and keyboards, which paves the way for the better material on the following Propaganda. Maybe a proper album with these would rate even higher for me (I am giving it a ***** rating, but it's a top 100 album for me, whereas it could be higher in my list), maybe it wouldn't, but just as with a hypothetical Sparks without "Biology 2," I'd have to think about it.

So ok, it's not perfect, but it's still great for the most part, and everybody should hear it at least once. For what it's worth, this album clearly had a major influence on Queen, and I don't like Queen much at all, and I still really like (almost love) this album, so anybody who likes Queen should definitely be all over this.

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