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Sparks Propaganda album cover
4.12 | 80 ratings | 4 reviews | 32% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1974

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Propaganda (0:20)
2. At Home, At Work, At Play (3:07)
3. Reinforcements (3:57)
4. BC (2:10)
5. Thanks But No Thanks (4:11)
6. Don't Leave Me Alone With Her (3:01)
7. Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth (2:28)
8. Something For The Girl With Everything (2:11)
9. Achoo (3:32)
10. Who Don't Like Kids (3:34)
11. Bon Voyage (4:55)

Total time 33:26

Bonus tracks on 1994 & 2006 reissues:
12. Alabamy Right (B-side) (2:09)
13. Marry Me (B-side) (2:44)

Extra bonus track on 2006 remaster:
14. Interview - Saturday Scene 8/11/74 (7:17)

Line-up / Musicians

- Russell Mael / lead vocals
- Adrian Fisher / guitar
- Trevor White / guitar
- Ron Mael / keyboards
- Ian Hampton / bass
- Norman "Dinky" Diamond / drums

Releases information

Artwork: Monty Coles

LP Island Records ‎- ILPS 9312 (1974, US)

CD Island Masters ‎- IMCD 199 (1994, UK) With 2 bonus tracks
CD Island Records ‎- 984 341 0 (2006, Europe) Remastered by Daryl Easlea and remixed by Bill Price, with 3 bonus tracks

Thanks to ? for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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SPARKS Propaganda ratings distribution

(80 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(32%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(51%)
Good, but non-essential (8%)
Collectors/fans only (1%)
Poor. Only for completionists (8%)

SPARKS Propaganda reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Rune2000
4 stars Sparks followed up their break though album Kimono My House with what can only be considered their most ambitious album from the '70s!

Propaganda kicks off with the 20 second intro tracks that clearly shows that the band were quite certain about the material that they had in store for their audience. This is quite rightfully so, since the next batch of tracks are simply some of the best compositions that Sparks have ever put on an album. At Home, At Work, At Play, B.C. and Thanks But No Thanks all sound like pure joy to my ears. Just when you though that the album can't get any much better than this, the band delivers one of my top 3 favorite Sparks compositions with Don't Leave Me Alone With Her. This is simply Art Rock at its finest, featuring that clear Sparks signature sound!

Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth is a sweet little ballad that swooshes by almost without notice due to all the other highlights that preceded it and it's successor is definitely not an exception to that rule! Something For The Girl With Everything is another one of those short energetic Sparks compositions that just makes you want to jump up and dance like you've never danced before, well at least that's the best description that I can give of this wonderful track.

Unfortunately this is as far as essential material goes since the final three tracks are a clear drop in quality compared to everything that proceeded it. Achoo is pretty harmless but a bit forgettable performance, but the real problem comes with Who Don't Like Kids. Who knew, apparently I don't like kids! While Bon Voyage does try to complete this package with a satisfying ending, I just can't see how this composition fits in with the rest of the material on Propaganda. The contrast just makes it sound completely out of place.

Although Propaganda does suffer from the inconsistency that has pledged pretty much each and every one of the Sparks albums up until 2002, this is easily their best album from the '70s and maybe even from their first 30 years! The album's assets clearly overweight any inconsistencies and make it quite a spectacle to behold!

***** star songs: Propaganda (0:23) At Home, At Work, At Play (3:06) B.C. (2:13) Thanks But No Thanks (4:14) Don't Leave Me Alone With Her (3:02) Something For The Girl With Everything (2:17)

**** star songs: Reinforcements (3:55) Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth (2:28) Achoo (3:34) Bon Voyage (2:54)

*** star songs: Who Don't Like Kids (3:37)

Review by Warthur
4 stars The followup to Kimono My House is really a refinement of the approach of that album. Aside from the mildly irritating Who Don't Like Kids, the bulk of the album is more tense, neurotic electro-pop with enough of a twist to make it of interest to prog fans. The lyrical subject matter ranges from allegories about natural or ecological disasters (Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth) to more conventional songs about relationships - well, conventional by Sparks' standards, anyway. Although, as Rune 2000 points out, the album starts running out of steam towards the end, until it does so it's compelling, endlessly enjoyable listening.
Review by rogerthat
5 stars This website must be one of the few places on Planet Internet where Propaganda is rated somewhat higher than Kimono My House. If you were to listen to George Starostin, Mark Prindle or other venerable internet music reviewers who helped spread the word about this underrated band, Propaganda is a marked step down from Kimono My House.

Really? Personally, I don't hear it. If Propaganda is a step down, then a step up would have probably cracked the sky. Maybe it is just disbelief over the ability of a band to defy the infamous sophomore syndrome and deliver another blockbuster. But then when have Sparks ever been like other mortals. I wouldn't dare complain when I am showered with so many goodies all at once (at least, that's what it feels like). It may or may not be as good as Kimono, but it can't get much better than this at any rate.

Sparks have, by their own admission, operated in isolation, feeling disdain for going trends in music but allowing those to creep into their work even as they influenced future trends in music. Perhaps it is this isolation that saved them from sophomore syndrome (or, maybe the simple fact that Propaganda was actually their fourth album!). They did not try to either imitate or completely move away from the formula of Kimono My House. They just remained true to their inspiration and released the resulting album on an unsuspecting public.

Propaganda, like Kimono My House, is another album of weird, complex pop-rock on steroids. Right from At Home, At Work, At Play, Sparks set a frenetic pace. Rather than hope for a let up, you'd best fasten your seat belts for a rollercoaster ride (wherein your car threatens to fly off the tracks!).

Because if you thought This Town Ain't Big Enough for The Both of Us was impossibly fast and chaotic, wait till you hear Don't Leave Me Alone With Her. Russell Mael seemingly spits off words at a speed that smashes the sound barrier to smithereens. But wait, he isn't just speed rapping like Tom Araya or even Rob Halford on Freewheel Burning. He's actually rendering a melody! I have never had the chance to see this unique band live and haven't watched much live footage of theirs either. How do I know this is for real and isn't simply sped-up-in-the-recording stuff. Even if it is the latter, though, the effect is paramount here; it's both stunning and hilarious. The chorus of said track, ironically, is more reasonably paced, anthemic even...if words like "Don't Leave Me Alone With Her" can be described as anthemic in the conventional sense of the word.

As they did on Kimono, brothers Ron and Russell Mael continue to turn rock and pop stereotypes upside down with amusing results, to say the least. It's almost as if they were bored of whatever was playing on the radio (I know, we are talking about the 70s, right?) and decided to twist it out of shape as much as they could and clapped their hands in delight at the results. There are also the Queen-before-Queen-really-hit-the-bigtime tracks like Reinforcements (did I mention, again, that Freddie Mercury, the much celebrated and decorated one, sounds like Russell Mael and not the other way round). Were Queen just in the right place at the right time, hogging some of the credit that Sparks deserved? Answer: who cares...even if they came afterwards, Queen simply couldn't master weird-pop like Sparks. But then, who has - Sparks move in their own orbit, unafraid to embrace eccentricity when it confronts them in their musical journey (rather than trying to be weird for the sake of it).

I could write a para for most of the other tracks to describe their delights but that would only serve to spoil the fun. I could give you a general idea of what it sounds like but the whole point of listening to Sparks is NOT to be aware of what's going to hit you when you hear it. If such an idea makes you apprehensive, a band as twisted as Sparks is probably not meant for your tastes anyway.

There are one or two tracks on this album like B.C. that I don't really listen to very often. But some reviewers seem to be fond of it. While I absolutely love Who Don't Like Kids, which not all reviewers endorse. That is, there aren't really any bad tracks on this album, just tracks my mind hasn't managed to embrace yet. 5 stars for yet another masterpiece from the Sparks-genre.

Review by tarkus1980
4 stars It would be very easy to dismiss this as Kimono My House's little brother or something like that. It was released six months after Kimono, it has the same producer and some of the same non-Mael musicians as Kimono (guitarist Adrian Fisher and drummer Norman Diamond return, though some of the guitar is provided by Trevor White), it's closer in style to Kimono than any other 70s Sparks album is to any of its adjacent albums, and weirdly enough it manages to cram the material that irritates me most near the end, just as on Kimono. And yet, the slight lack of polish that keeps the album from reaching as many glorious heights as its predecessor also lends a variety and messiness that mostly compensates, and the album ends up as at least 90% as enjoyable as Kimono. It's not quite Sparks crossed with Kimono, but it's as close as one could reasonably expect to get.

As mentioned, the album has an annoying stretch near the end, though it recovers strongly with the closing "Bon Voyage," which sets lyrics that seem to be about people waving goodbye to Noah's ark to music that alternates between anthemic bombast in the chorus and a whole lot of variation in the verses. "Achoo" is a decent enough bouncy number (which appears to be about dealing with your girl leaving you for a doctor) that features Russell fake-sneezing as a hook from time to time, but the band just couldn't leave well enough alone, and the song ends with a seemingly endless series of "Achoo" sounds piled on top of each other that just irritate the hell out of me. "Who Don't Like Kids" is more than a little dubious lyrically, but I could forgive the song (because, really, this is yet another song where I can't make out what the hell Russell is singing unless I look up the lyrics) and its excessive giddiness if it weren't for the occasional interlude of a bunch of kids singing the chorus in a way that drives me up a wall. I normally try to avoid "annoying" as a primary reason to dislike a song or two, but these two push the boundaries in such a way that I have to make an exception.

Thank goodness for the first eight tracks. The opening title track is a 25-second snippet of a capella circus music (Russell harmonizes with several layers of himself in a fascinating way), and it's immediately followed by "At Home, At Work, At Play," which is almost certainly my favorite Sparks song. It definitely sounds somewhat like a Kimono retread, but I'm ok with that; there's not a thing in this three-minute slab of bombastic keyboard-heavy glam rock that I would change. The lyrics are about a guy who is jealous of the time that his girl spends with other people despite the fact that she spends pretty much all of her time with him in some capacity, and it has some of the most hilariously elaborate lyrics about lust ever written crossed with elaborate laments about how there just isn't enough time to spend with her (even though, again, she's with him all of the time). It's the best combination of clever lyric and interesting/catchy music that I've ever heard from Sparks, and it's a track that I haven't grown tired of in the least despite the fact that it's certainly the Sparks track that I've listened to most over the years. If you've never heard this song or read the lyrics to it, do both right now.

The rest can't live up to such a great start, but it gives a noble effort. "Reinforcements" (a music-hall number with a martial rhythm in the chorus) and "B.C." (a silly number about a man named Aaron who doesn't want his wife, Betty, to leave him and take their son, Charlie, because it would ruin the greatness of having a family that can be called "ABC") are relatively trite by the standards of the band's best work, but they're cute, so they can stick around. Much better is the following "Thanks But No Thanks," a Kimono-worthy number about a kid who has to keep turning down the advances of sexual predators as he goes home (" orders come from high above me ..."), since his parents have ordered him to ("...about a foot or two above me ...") even though he feels bad about hurting their feelings, all set to a memorable tune that climaxes with a guitar solo that sounds an awful lot like an electric violin to me but apparently isn't. "Don't Leave Me Alone With Her" takes the "spending time with my wife is annoying because she's boring and the world isn't" concept of "Thank God it's Not Christmas" and amplifies it into "my wife is f$%*($&ing terrifying," set to a stomping ominous tune that makes it a minor classic. On the other side, "Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth" takes misogyny in a new direction, combining a relatively gentle harpsichord-based number (except for the weird breakdown in the middle) with lyrics that allude to the horrible things that Mother Earth can do when angry (with the implication that you shouldn't cheat on her), and while I'm a little surprised that this would have gotten the nod over "Home/Work/Play" to be a single, I'm not surprised it did pretty well in that regard. And finally, "Something for the Girl with Everything" is a cheery number whose tune masks lyrics that convey the sheer terror that comes from trying to find a gift for somebody who is blackmailing you, and seeking things that will make her happy and also not want to talk ("Three wise men are here/bearing gifts to aid amnesia").

There were also a couple of B-sides from the era, and they're decent enough, though not as great as their Kimono counterparts. "Alabamy Right" is yet another bit of music-hall influenced pop, this time apparently about dealing with the late-day rush as a supermarket cashier, and "Marry Me" is the one time that the misogyny gives way to reveal somebody who actually wants a happy quiet life with somebody (key stanza: "A happily-ever-after does that seem too much to ask?/With trees and tots and stucco walls and fountains in the back/And lawns that you or I can mow and neighbours who will chat/About important issues and the state of this 'n that") despite all of the pretense elsewhere in the band's material.

While this album certainly has its downsides, it also has so many great aspects that, for anybody who likes bombastic 70s pop, it's practically essential. If you've bought Sparks and Kimono already and like them, this should be your next stop. It's probably for the best that they didn't try to make another album in this vein, though.

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