Now approaching their 50th (!) year as a band, Sparks (a.k.a. Ron and Russell Mael) have been at the forefront of many crucial developments in pop music—glam rock, electronic disco, New Wave, neoclassical baroque ‘n’ roll—and have put their own singular, absurdist stamp on them all. As their fabulous recent release, Hippopotamus, proves, Sparks’ flair for extravagant art-pop and whip-smart lyricism remains undiminished. And as their contribution to The Dowsers attests, nobody puts together a playlist quite like the Brothers Mael. Here are their liner notes:
“Hasai Ojisan,” Shokichi Kina: The most infectious song of all time, from Okinawa, and a huge hit in Japan in the ‘70s
“Maria Bartiromo,” Joey Ramone: The late great vocalist for the sublime Ramones’ solo ode to the TV financial babe.
“London by Night,” The Singers Unlimited: Exquisite a cappella work that far outshines even The Beach Boys
“Agharta Prelude (Part I),” Miles Davis: Daring to break from his modal work with two amazing quintets in order to explore new musical territory and risk alienating his followers and critics, Miles Davis is always an inspiration.
“HeadBangeeeeerrrrr!!!!!,” BABYMETAL: Great fusion of heavy metal and cute Japanese girl pop. One of the best live acts in the world.
“I Love to Rhyme,” George and Ira Gershwin: A hymn to the art of, well, rhyming. George Gershwin was one of the greatest composers of the 20th century, both in popular song and in “serious” music.
“Du hast,” Rammstein: As heavy as heavy gets.
“Twisted,” Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross: A lovely ode to insanity.
“Past, Present & Future”: The Shangri-Las: Hyper-emotional, classically tinged pop song by bouffanted beauties masterminded by Shadow Morton.
“Symphony No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 65: III,” Dmitri Shostakovich: Rocks like a motherfucker!
“911 Is a Joke,” Public Enemy: Dense and tense music from the magnificent duo. Great in concert.
“Baltimore Oriole,” Bob Dorough: Idiosyncratic and thus cool vocals by a jazz great.
“All Dressed Up for School,” The Beach Boys: Great pre-genius work by Brian Wilson and more interesting to us than the entire Pet Sounds and Smile albums combined.