Sparky: The Album is for the kid in you
The first thing I thought when I listened to the album Sparky: The Album by Sparky: The Band was, “They Might Be Giants!”After a second, closer listening they still remind me of TMBG, and that’s pretty significant because a) No other band ever has, and b) TMBG is just great.
That being said, I know two of the three musicians in this band and they aren’t trying to sound like anyone but themselves. They just happen to be full of talent, humor and whimsy. Yes, I said whimsy.
The musician who first brought the album to my attention, James Lowery of the Roadrunners, said, “It kinda reminds me of a kids’ album” and you know? It kinda reminded me of one as well, at first. After a track or two I thought, “Well, OK, a kids’ album for kids who are pretty smart and have laid-back parents…” After a few more tracks I had to concede that this wasn’t an album for kids so much as a kids’ album for grown-ups and that makes it so much more wonderful.
First, a few elements universal to the album and then we’ll touch on a few of the most exceptional tracks. Humor permeates the work. At times it is fairly highbrow. At other times it is…decidedly less so. High or low, it is all quite clever and full of wordplay. I love word play. It’s like tickling your brain. The musicianship is bulletproof. The rhythm parts occasionally seem to be improvised from whatever was handy at the time. Lyrically, it’s some of the best stuff I’ve heard.
“Homo Sapien,” the first track on the album and the one that made me think instantly of TMBG, is a lighthearted look at what it means to be one. A bit like Xavier: Renegade Angel, but significantly less abstract. “Human Being” is a deceptive number that opens with a catalog of reasons why it’s great to be one before suggesting (not cynically in any way) that maybe we ain’t so great as all that. “Puppies” is one of the tracks that could be a straightforward kids’ tune as it is simply about, well, puppies. “That’s how I know you love your puppy/’cause I love puppies too.”
“If I Had a Time Machine” is my favorite track from the album and probably one of my favorite from the last year or so. It starts out with your typical “Here’s what I’d go back and change” and seems to be subtly offering some good life advice, especially where student loans are concerned.
Pretty soon though, the singer is thinking of ways to make himself rich, which would then turn him into the sort of person he wouldn’t want to be around anyway. Time paradoxes abound. All is resolved when our man realizes that “mistakes are why you are” and that best thing to do is to smash the time machine into bits and “learn to live each minute 60 seconds at a time.”
There are so many more fantastic tracks on this album; it’s a terrible shame to skip over them. “Amelia” is one of the sweetest and sincerest love songs I’ve heard and “The Beans” is…well, it’s a bluesy, Grateful Dead-esque/Frank Zappa sort of tune about flatulence and it is hilarious. “Sexy Little Sexy,” by the way, is the tune that made me realize that this is definitely not a kids’ album.
The band consists of Reverend #9, Burly Temple and Shotgun Bubblegum, three fellas who met through open mics around town and discovered they loved making music together. For now the band is limiting its appearances to open mic events and their Facebook page is a good way to keep up with those. My verdict on Sparky: The Band? Given their superb musicianship and writing skills, if the band were a vehicle, it would be a super high-toned exotic sports car, but they wouldn’t show it off or race it, they’d just tool around town using it to pass out ice cream to whoever wanted some.
Check out the album on Sound Cloud, check out the band live and in person at an open mic near you. It’ll be the happiest thing you do that day. Incidentally, although we do live in a cash-based economy, the members would like it known that they are open to bartering for albums.