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On The Girl is Crying in Her Latte Sparks aim to leave no room for boredom

"The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte"

Release date: 26 May 2023
Sparks - The Girls Is Crying In Her Latte cover
23 May 2023, 09:00 Written by Simon Heavisides

Are Sparks the hardest band to review?

Over the course of a 50-plus year career, they’ve had just about every type of write-up imaginable, from the hyperbolic to the most painful of put-downs and every point in between.

A case in point: back in 1979, the groundbreaking Giorgio Moroder assisted No. 1 In Heaven was written off by many critics, NME labelling it a “redundant pseudo European disco drama.” That album was on Virgin, in their lifetime Sparks have journeyed a bewildering route of label-stopping off points and now find themselves back on Island where their success began with 1974's Kimono My House.

Could it be now that everyone who loves them already knows what’s great about them and the others don’t care? Seemingly not. The new golden age of Sparks, at least in commercial terms, seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon.

After the triumph of Hippopotamus (2017) and the consolidation of A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip (2020), The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte feels as if the Maels are leaving nothing to chance. Within a gem of a cover lies a dose of precision-tooled Sparks, seeking to allow no room for boredom or disinterest on the part of the listener.

No, it’s not really a return to the Island years musically but then did you really think they’d do that?

Perhaps there are echoes, as in the arch existential fatalism of “Nothing Is As Good As They Say It Is”, but what band at their stage of the game would give us a minimal synth marvel like “Veronica Lake”.

There’s an interesting contrast between the more stripped-back tracks featuring ‘just’ Ron and Russell and those including members of the current touring band amongst others. In the former camp, “Escalator” pairs the lyrics down to the bare minimum to tell a tale of wistful glances, destined to remain unrequited. Whereas, “It Doesn’t Have to be that Way” takes an entirely different route, with lush acoustic and electric guitar, bass, drums and strings, coming close to a Sparksian version of chamber pop.

If there is a criticism, maybe they could open things up and allow an outside producer in for the first time in many years, on past experience a wise move. Each of the last three records has possibly been one or two songs longer than strictly necessary, the kind of editing issue an equal third party could assist with? Maybe next time.

But for now, imagine a dystopian future where the Sparks brothers are no longer gracing us with their genius. Some malevolent underling, at what passes for a record company, decides to ‘create’ a new Sparks album utilising AI. All their warped creativity fed in and drawn on. But the thing is, AI could never replicate the unique balance between deranged imagination and supreme sanity that is the mark of a great Sparks record like this.

Let’s be quite frank: if we’re not already crying into our lattes or other beverage of choice, then we probably should be, and let the soundtrack be Sparks.

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