Sparks

Angst in My Pants

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Although mired in a rut of merely "good" albums, Sparks had offered occasional glimpses of their old greatness on each, fanning the dim hope that they might climb again to previous heights. The faithful were rewarded with Angst in My Pants, the first album in years (and, sadly, the last) that puts their pop genius to good use. The differences between this album and the inferior Whomp That Sucker are subtle but important. First, the material is much better (OK, that's not so subtle). Second, the band is brought up in the mix at the expense of the synthesizer, and the result feels more like their old power pop than the new wave/disco sound of recent efforts. Lastly, Russell Mael's voice is lower; he still hits the high notes on occasion, but for the most part this is an album of pop songs you can actually sing along with (and the lyric sheet, while provided, isn't necessary this time). Still pegged as a novelty act, the colorless "I Predict" was selected as the album's single; "Eaten By the Monster of Love" didn't catch on with radio stations, but it's a much better representative of the album. Other highlights include the wonderfully silly "Moustache," a Beach Boys send-up in "Sextown U.S.A.," and the strange but sympathetic love song "Sherlock Holmes." Throughout the record, Sparks succeeds not by pushing a pipe full of music through a thin straw (as they did on classics like Propaganda) but by giving their ideas the space they need to succeed. As a result, it's not an overwhelming record, simply an ingratiating one. Unfortunately, the subsequent Sparks in Outer Space returned to the mechanical pace of their post-disco product, which makes Angst in My Pants a warm exception within Sparks' protracted creative cold spell.

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