Listen to Austin 360 Radio

FFFFest Review: Sparks, Yellow Stage Saturday

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By Luke Quinton

Editor’s note: This article was originally published November 10, 2013

Let’s start with honesty: I was drastically unprepared for Sparks, and their relentless onslaught of, well … whatever it is that they do. But then, who isn’t?

Sparks greeted its cult following appropriately in Fun Fest’s comedy tent, with the amazing mock-Broadway showtunes they’d come for.

“How do you get to Car-ne-gie Hall?” Russell Mael sang out like a cheery British school marm, “Practice, practice!”

This is an incredibly strange niche of comedy. One line in the band’s Wikipedia says, “Sparks have created their own unique musical universe.” Touche, anonymous internet writer.

Sparks have been doing their thing in several different iterations since the ‘70s, and the live show features Ron Mael on a fabulously cheesy synthesizer and his brother Russell on vocals (with a surprisingly accomplished falsetto). The uninitiated could picture Dan Bejar’s Destroyer project singing showtunes. Occasionally Sparks sound like The Cure doing an infomercial.

It’s one guy and a goofy synthesizer — but so, so much more. Take the lyrics to “Those Mysteries,”

“Why is there time?

Why is there space?

Why are there dogs and cats and trees and the human race?

And why am I here and not over there?

Oh why, oh why?”

Their 2009 concept album “The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman” is apparently going to become a film, directed by indie director Guy Maddin, and the tale, which follows the great Swedish director’s seduction into Hollywood action flicks. Can’t wait.