Director Edgar Wright's 2021 documentary The Sparks Brothers brought much-deserved attention to cult rock heroes Ron and Russell Mael and their prodigious, singular output as Sparks. Now, BMG has announced the 21st Century Sparks collection: a series of deluxe CD and vinyl reissues encompassing Balls (2000), Lil' Beethoven (2002), and Hello Young Lovers (2006) arriving on Friday, April 29; and Exotic Creatures of the Deep (2008) and The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman (2009) following on Friday, May 27. All five titles have been newly remastered for the 21st Century Sparks collection and all but one title features CD-only bonus material, much of which is previously unreleased.
Sparks inaugurated the 21st century with their 18th studio album, Balls. Featuring "It's a Knockoff," written and recorded for the Jean-Claude Van Damme film Knock Off, the tongue-in-cheek "More Than a Sex Machine," and a paean to Scheherazade, Balls gains eight bonus tracks including the previously unreleased "It's a Sparks Show." The duo followed up Balls with 2002's Lil' Beethoven, stripping down their sound and emphasizing voices, piano, and strings. The shift from synthpop to classically-inspired art-rock impressed fans and critics at the time. It's expanded with five bonus tracks including a spoken-word "The Legend of Lil' Beethoven" and extended and instrumental versions.
Sparks' next studio album, Hello Young Lovers, arrived in 2006 and became one of their most successful, appearing on the U.K. Album Chart. The LP, which reflected all of the band's many sonic incarnations over the years, garnered a bit of controversy when the opening track and single "Dick Around" was banned by the BBC. Though the ban was short-lived, the publicity didn't help the song get any higher than No. 139 on the U.K. Singles Chart. Two bonus cuts have been added: "We Are The Clash," originally released for a magazine tribute to The Clash in 2003, and "(Baby, Baby) Can I Invade Your Country" with alternative lyrics. 2008's Exotic Creatures of the Deep extended Sparks' popularity in the U.K., reaching No. 54 on the Album Chart as it touched upon electropop, harmony pop, and glam. Five bonuses are newly appended including the non-LP B-side "Brenda Is Always In the Way" and songs written for both radio and film.
The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman, reissued without any additional content, was Sparks' most ambitious album release to that point: a musical radio drama imagining a visit by director Ingmar Bergman to Hollywood in the 1950s. Commissioned for Swedish radio, it featured performances from both American and Swedish performers as well as both Mael brothers. Musically, the Maels tapped into everything from opera to polka, as well as spoken-word passages, to bring their story to life. The seeds of Sparks' 2021 musical film Annette may well have been planted with The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman.
Sparks' two most recent albums - Hippopotamus (2017) and A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip (2020) - complete the 21st Century Sparks collection and are both available now from BMG. You'll find track listings and pre-order links for the five deluxe reissues below, due on April 29 and May 27.
Due April 29
- More Than A Sex Machine
- The Calm Before The Storm
- How To Get Your Ass Kicked
- Bullet Train
- It's A Knockoff
- It's Educational
- The Angels
CD Bonus Tracks:
- It's A Sparks Show [Opening theme for Sparks live shows; Previously unreleased]
- Calm Before The Opera [Reworking of the song 'The Calm Before The Storm']
- The Angels (Sparks Alternative Version)
- More Than A Sex Machine (Sparks Definitive Version - Radio Edit)
- The Angels (Tony Visconti version)
- The Oblongs [Proposed pilot theme song for the animated TV series The Oblongs; Previously released in Japan]
- A Cute Candidate [Opening Theme from In Entertainment We Trust: Music From The Motion Picture A Cute Candidate by Kuntzel+Deygas]
- The Race for President [From In Entertainment We Trust: Music From The Motion Picture A Cute Candidate by Kuntzel+Deygas]
- The Rhythm Thief
- How Do I Get To Carnegie Hall?
- What Are All These Bands So Angry About?
- I Married Myself
- Ride 'Em Cowboy
- My Baby's Taking Me Home
- Your Call's Very Important To Us. Please Hold.
- Ugly Guys With Beautiful Girls
- Suburban Homeboy
CD Bonus Tracks:
- The Legend Of Lil' Beethoven [The story of 'Lil' Beethoven' read by Ron Mael]
- Wunderbar (Concerto In Koch Minor) [Originally commissioned for Günther Koch Revisited: Voll in den Mann by Bayerischer Rundfunk / Hörspiel und Medienkunst; Features the sampled voice of Günther Koch]
- Kakadu [Originally commissioned for one word one sound by Bayerischer Rundfunk / Hörspiel und Medienkunst Concept: a song created from an assigned word and sound, Word: "Kakadu" (voice of Richard Huelsenbeck). Sound: papier schnippen / snip paper. Reading by Tammy Glover]
- Suburban Homeboy (Extended "Ron Speaks" Version)
- The Rhythm Thief (Instrumental Version)
- Dick Around
- The Very Next Fight
- (Baby, Baby) Can I Invade Your Country
- Rock, Rock, Rock
- Here Kitty
- There's No Such Thing as Aliens
- As I Sit Down to Play the Organ at the Notre Dame Cathedral
CD Bonus Tracks:
- We Are The Clash [Originally released on White Riot, Vol. 2: A Tribute to The Clash, issued by Uncut in November 2003]
- (Baby, Baby) Can I Invade Your Country (Alternative Lyrics)
Due May 27:
- Good Morning
- Strange Animal
- I Can't Believe That You Would Fall for All the Crap in This Song
- Let the Monkey Drive
- Intro Reprise
- I've Never Been High
- (She Got Me) Pregnant
- Lighten Up, Morrissey
- This Is the Renaissance
- The Director Never Yelled 'Cut'
CD Bonus Tracks:
- Brenda is Always in the Way [B-side of the 7" single 'Lighten Up, Morrissey']
- Islington N1 [Written to commemorate the concert event Sparks Spectacular: 21 Albums in 21 Nights (May-June 2008) in Islington, London; Originally available only for "Golden Ticket" holders]
- Hulot [Unused theme song written for the documentary The Magnificent Tati]
- I Am A Bookworm [End theme song of the radio show Bookworm, hosted by Michael Silverblatt, and broadcast weekly on National Public Radio member station KCRW in Los Angeles]
- Where Would We Be Without Books [Main theme song of the radio show Bookworm, as above]
- 1956 Cannes Film Festival
- "I Am Ingmar Bergman"
- Limo Driver (Welcome To Hollywood)
- "Here He Is Now"
- "Mr. Bergman, How Are You?"
- "He'll Come 'Round"
- En Route To The Beverly Hills Hotel
- Hollywood Welcoming Committee
- "I've Got To Contact Sweden"
- The Studio Commissary
- "I Must Not Be Hasty"
- "Quiet On The Set"
- "Why Do You Take That Tone With Me?"
- Pleasant Hotel Staff
- Hollywood Tour Bus
- Autograph Hounds
- Bergman Ponders Escape
- "We've Got To Turn Him 'Round"
- Escape (Part 1)
- Escape (Part 2)
- "Oh My God"
- Garbo Sings
- Almost A Hollywood Ending
- "He's Home"