Russell Mael honestly doesn’t know how the American public will react to Sparks’ first album in six years.
He already has a pretty good idea where they stand in Europe.
After a triumphant, sold-out and celebrity-packed comeback show in London in November and rave reviews for their Logic Records debut album “Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins,” the influential pop duo of brothers Ron and Russell Mael are enjoying a resurgence in Europe and hoping for renewed interest in the United States. The album is scheduled for a stateside release on Feb. 27.
“We thought people could have perceived it in two ways,” lead singer Russell Mael said recently from his Beverly Hills, Calif., home. “One, ‘Oh, God, don’t bore us, Sparks is back,’ or two, ‘Wow, this is a really interesting album.’
“Fortunately, it’s being perceived in the second way. Now people are starting to go back and analyze our whole career but in a really positive way.”
A Melody Maker magazine writeup of the Sparks’ first London show in 17 years put everything in perspective for the quirky, techno-based duo and their impact on modern-day pop bands.
“It said that any comparisons with bands like Pet Shop Boys and Erasure slights Sparks for what we’ve done, that we’re working in our own world,” Mael said. “They said those bands wouldn’t be if it weren’t for Sparks. It was a great compliment, that they thought that there was even more substance to the whole body of our work.”
One listen to Sparks’ new single, “When Do I Get to Sing ‘My Way’,” and you’ll agree with Melody Maker. Other tracks, like “I Thought I Told You to Wait in the Car” and “(When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing,” underline the band’s sly pop vitality.
“Gratuitous Sax” is Sparks’ 16th album spanning a 24-year career. Over those years, the Mael brothers have been big names throughout Europe and underappreciated in America – to the point where it surprises even Sparks fans to learn that the Maels grew up in Los Angeles.
“A lot of people from England even think we’re English,” Mael said with a laugh. “Stylistically, what we’re doing doesn’t sound like it’s from (the states). Our manner and our image isn’t typically Los Angeles. Musically, we have no ties to what’s going on here.”
What does Sparks have to say in the ’90s?
“More than anything, we think people should be attempting more interesting music,” Mael said. “We wanted to keep this album lyrically striking, with no compromises to try and fit in with the radio scene. If the album works here, that’s great, but if it doesn’t, we know we made the album that we wanted to make.”