Better known as the director of such feel-good films as Shaun of The Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs The World and Baby Driver, director Edgar Wright has just released an intricate and affectionate documentary about the band Sparks. -Who they be? Well, depending on your age and musical tastes, The Sparks Brothers (and yes, they are the brothers Mael), have been many things in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s and many others decades since.
After being raised in 1960s California, it was never going to be a conventional path for the brothers Mael. Moustachioed Ron would take care of the tunes and Rusell would deliver the falsettos. Ron’s moustache would veer between Adolf Hitler and a World War II black marketeer and Russell’s good looks would round out their overall odd-ball appeal. However, it’s this eccentric commitment to humour that has always led them to be labelled as “British”. However, that misconception wasn’t really 100% wrong – because in their musical heart of hearts – they always wanted to be an edgy “British band”.
You see, after 25 albums and over 500 songs later, there’s a lot of ground to cover, hence The Sparks Brothers 140 minutes running time. Into electro before Kraftwerk, into syncopation before Giorgio Moroder, Sparks have always been a bye-word in edgy experimentation. It’s for this reason alone, that whilst you may not know them I’ll bet that the bands-you-actually-adore, have probably worshipped at their altar before.
-But how could this be? Well, the real reason for their invisibility is that Sparks are world leaders in self-destruction. No sooner have they built up a new sound and discovered a new audience, than they’re onto something new that will really alienate their new fanbase. This is not to say though, that they are without their admirers. Far from it. As Edgar Wright’s oddball mish-mash of animation, stock footage and talking-heads will testify, The Sparks Brothers have a lot of admirers. Pet Shop Boys, Erasure and early Depeche Mode are the easy name-checks but if you’ve ever seen an impassive keyboardist ever glare at a studio camera, trust me, they owe Ron Mael more than a debt of gratitude.
As Edgar Wright’s documentary takes you from their early exposure to The Black Board Jungle to lyrically swapping misgivings with Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos, it’s a long journey but it’s worth the ride. So, if you fancy that rarest of musical docs where the brothers don’t hate each other then let The Sparks Brothers fly in your direction.