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Sparks Music That You Can Dance To album cover
2.13 | 13 ratings | 1 reviews | 8% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 1986

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Music That You Can Dance To (4:21)
2. Rosebud (4:37)
3. Fingertips (4:20)
4. Change (5:17)
5. The Scene (6:11)
6. Shopping Mall Of Love (3:14)
7. Modesty Plays (New Version) (3:59)
8. Let?s Get Funky (6:05)

Total time 38:04

Different track list on Europe releases - track #4 changed for:
4. Armies Of The Night (4:30)

Line-up / Musicians

- Russell Mael / vocals
- Ron Mael / synths (Roland JP8, Yamaha DX7 & Fairlight)

- John Thomas / keyboards
- Bob Haag / guitar, Roland guitar synth, backing vocals
- Leslie Bohem / bass, backing vocals
- David Kendrick / drums
- Robert Mache / guitar (3)

Releases information

Artwork: Michael Diehl with Rocky Schenck (photo)

LP MCA Records ‎- MCA-5780 (1986, US)

CD Curb Records ‎- D2-77335 (1990, US) New cover art (Wrongly entitled "Best Of")
CD Repertoire Records ‎- REP 5229 (2011, Europe)

Thanks to Rune2000 for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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SPARKS Music That You Can Dance To ratings distribution

(13 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(8%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(8%)
Good, but non-essential (8%)
Collectors/fans only (62%)
Poor. Only for completionists (15%)

SPARKS Music That You Can Dance To reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by tarkus1980
2 stars This is by no means even close to a good album; a lot of the bad aspects of the previous album are retained and amplified here, and a good half of this album is pretty much unlistenable. And yet, there's an odd sense throughout the album that the band is trying to do something a little more tweaked than typical dance pop of the day, and much of the album feels like a better album in embryo. The vocal melodies are a little better (in some of the songs) than they typically were on Rabbits, and the instrumentation, which often creates grooves that are noisy but hardly danceable, helps give a sense of wit and irony to a lot of the material, even in the parts that I don't like. Half of the album is terrible, but half strikes me as pretty decent even given how gross the arrangements often are.

I would really like, for instance, to hear the title track and "Rosebud" with substantially different arrangements, because then they might be able to work their way into the second tier of Sparks material. The louder synth blasts of the title track are pretty obnoxious, but the vocal melody is infectious and way more developed than I would have expected, and the wailing backing vocals that pop up from time to time sound weirdly appropriate. Plus, there's no way that "Music that you can dance to/that and that alone is enough for me/Stark naked modern music/Hotter than your momma will ever be" is an earnest declaration of how Ron really felt about things at this point; I really have no idea why he would have been making music like this if he clearly felt a bit of self-loathing about it, but there's a tension in the song that's very intriguing. "Rosebud" has more silly big dramatic synths, but there's a darkness to the music that matches the darkness of the lyrics (about somebody trying to calm his dying lover and tell her everything will be fine after they've been in a terrible accident), and the song is able to overcome its more embarrassing aspects quite well.

"Armies of the Night" lightens up on the worse aspects of the album's production (they reappear during the middle but they retreat some in the early part of the song), and the song ends up working as a throwback to "All You Ever Think About is Sex" or "Dance Godammit," this time framing those who spend their nights partying as soldiers seeking to compel people to join their throng. The chorus of "The armies of the night are coming, they're coming/Life will be a dream for you and me/The armies of the night are coming, they're coming/Life will be a scream for you and me" feels like a classic Sparks chorus, and to have a genuinely classic Sparks chorus in the 80s is a boon. And finally, out of the good tracks, "Modesty Plays" is an updated version of a 1982 non-album single, and somehow the pounding beat and active synth parts work with the clever vocal melody delivering lyrics about a woman who's not as demure as she might be on the surface ("Don't underestimate the lady/She may seem cultured and demure/But there's another side and careful/She'll hit you like a 2 by 4").

So that's the good half; it's not perfect, but it's better than the good half of Rabbits at least. Unfortunately, I find the other half unbearable, though this is partially because the band was explicitly shooting for the dance club scene with this material. "Fingertips" (a cover of a Motown song that had first gained fame through Little Stevie Wonder) starts with a Russell falsetto of "Everybody sing Yeah, Yeah, say Yeah" over a dance beat and doesn't get any better; it's a bunch of keyboard blarings and various tacky exhortations (which would sound fine coming from Stevie Wonder but not from Russell Mael!!), and it goes against pretty much everything I like about Sparks. "The Scene" is 6:22 and multi-part, but it's essentially a bunch of obnoxious grooves superglued together, and I can't imagine ever wanting to listen to this. "Shopping Mall of Love" is decidedly not dance club music; it consists of fragments of sung and spoken bits over an awkward (but most definitely NOT danceable) drum beat, and it gets really old after about 30 seconds. And finally, "Let's Get Funky" may be built around the least pleasant sequence of synth chords ever put together, and while the lyrics are moderately amusing, hearing Russell sing with an odd twang over this foundation for six minutes makes for one of the worst possible experiences. I really have no idea if it's supposed to work on some satirical level or what, but I don't care if it's somehow the musical equivalent of Gulliver's Travels, I'm not touching it again.

While the album made a small dent in the dance club music scene, it once more made no impact on the music world at large, and the Bates Motel backing group finally had enough and left. Still, while it could hardly be said that they left on a high note, at least they helped make half an album of material that at least somewhat holds up. If you can find the good half without dealing with the bad (though hearing the bad half might be worth a laugh once), you should give those tracks at least a couple of listens.

PS: This was reissued in 1990 under the inexplicably misleading title The Best of Sparks: Music That You Can Dance To. That version swaps out "Armies of the Night" and replaces it with "Change," and as much as I like "Armies of the Night," I'd have to say that version would be a slight improvement. The song is hilariously spazz-tastic; much of it consists of Russell rambling all sorts of things over bass and finger snaps between big synth blasts, but the ramblings are fun, and the chorus is magnificent. The ramblings alternate between singing in amusing ways, and there are arrangement twists thrown in that make no logical sense but are compelling rather than annoying. That said, couldn't this have replaced something like "Shopping Mall of Love" so that both songs could have made it on?

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