Russell Mael - vocals; Ron Mael - keyboards; Leslie Bohem - bass, background vocals; Bob Haag - guitar, background vocals; David Kendrick - drums; James Goodwin - synths
The quirky, shape-shifting pop of Sparks has taken several wildly different forms over the years, and this King Biscuit Flower Hour recording captures them at one of the finest, most compelling moments of their career. As is mentioned in the opening remarks from WLIR-FM, the band, centered around brothers Ron and Russell Mael, had just released 1982's Angst in My Pants, a record which, in addition to marking something of a return to their operatic rock roots, also introduced a new wave aesthetic that won them many new fans stateside and abroad. By this time, the band had been around for 12 years, originally started by the Mael brothers while students at UCLA. They moved to London, England for a few years in the mid-'70s, where they became pop stars, before eventually returning to the USA to continue their recording career.
A minute-long keyboard passage intro leads into "Sextown, USA," a bawdy, Beach Boys-styled highlight from their then-new LP. The album's title track, "Angst in My Pants," also makes an appearance here, a synth-driven number a few shades more melancholy than the other selection. "Funny Face," which appeared on 1981's Whomp That Sucker (the first record to feature the core line-up that performed this show), is a terrific new wave pop track, as is the next song in the set, "Beat the Clock." The latter, a highlight of their No. 1 in Heaven LP from three years earlier, was produced by Giorgio Moroder and became a hit in England. It's quite different from the other tracks featured here, a superb example of the group's versatile pop smarts. The final tune on this recording, "I Predict," was the only single to be released from Angst in My Pants and became the first Sparks single to enter the Billboard Top 100, where it peaked at #60.
While Sparks has gone through a number of different line-ups and sounds since this show, the Maels have remained constants, and they continue to record and perform to this day. Most recently, they released 2008's Exotic Creatures of the Deep, which they debuted at the end of a flabbergasting 21-night residency at the Islington Academy in London last summer, over which they played every one of their albums in their entirety.