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[[caption-width-right:350:These tropes ain't big enough for the both of us...]]

Sparks are an American band who formed in 1970 in Los Angeles and are still active today. The band officially consists of only brothers Ron (keyboards, songwriting, questionable mustache) and Russell Mael (vocals), but over the years they have accumulated a large amount of ex-members and session musicians. The duo's style is characterized by their whimsically over-the-top songwriting, their funny, witty lyrics, Russell's falsetto, and a quirky stage presence which plays with the contrast between Russell's hyperactive FaceOfTheBand attitude and Ron's [[TheStoic deliberately stiff and taciturn]] stage persona.

The group initially formed under the name Halfnelson, but changed it to Sparks shortly after the release of their debut. After releasing two quirky, [[Music/FrankZappa Zappa-esque]] albums that were largely ignored in their homeland, the Maels decided to try their luck on the other side of the Atlantic and relocated to England. It was there that they reached their popular (and arguably most creative) peak in 1974 with third album ''Kimono My House'', a fusion of glam-rock and dance-pop sensibilities with wry and clever stories, which spawned a surprise number two hit single with their SignatureSong "This Town Ain't Big Enough For the Both Of Us".

They followed it up with ''Propaganda'' the same year and ''Indiscreet'' the next, which were essentially a continuation of the ''Kimono'' sound (to continued success), after which they returned to the United States and fell into obscurity starting with the more straightforward Rock sound of ''Big Beat''. During the next few decades they would go on to make over a dozen albums in which they would flirt with many different genres, including disco with ''No. 1 In Heaven'' (produced by Music/GiorgioMoroder) and an uninspired {{New Wave Music}}/{{Synth Pop}} period in the '80s which is generally agreed upon as awful (''Angst In My Pants, Pulling Rabbits Out of a Hat, Interior Design'').

They had brief resurgences of popularity (especially in Europe) with 1979's ''No. 1 in Heaven'', 1980's ''Terminal Jive'' (which made them {{One Hit Wonder}}s in France with "When I'm With You") and 1994's Europop-tastic ''Gratuitous Sax and Senseless Violins'', until the release of the NewSoundAlbum ''Lil' Beethoven'' in 2002 [[JustForPun sparked]] renewed global interest and acclaim. Ever since 2002's success, the band has been making music that's a mocking combination of HouseMusic, ProgressiveRock, BaroquePop and straight-up classical music. The new style paved the way for a productive decade that resulted in the rock-oriented follow-ups, ''Hello Young Lovers'' and ''Exotic Creatures of the Deep''. Their latest work, ''[[TheMusical The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman]]'', is a musical Ron and Russell composed for a Swedish radio station.

The band underwent a ''Two Hands, One Mouth'' tour in 2012, stripping their music back to Ron's keyboards and Russell's vocals to great success. Their first live album, culled from the tour, followed in 2013. ''The Revenge of Two Hands, One Mouth Tour'' followed shortly after. It was announced in 2014 that they are also working on a collaborative album with their PostPunk {{Big Name Fan}}s Music/FranzFerdinand.

Despite being criminally overlooked during much of their career, the duo are very highly regarded (Music/{{Morrissey}}, Music/TheyMightBeGiants, Music/{{Nirvana}}, Music/{{Bjork}}, Music/{{Ween}}, Music/SonicYouth, Music/TheRamones, Music/DuranDuran, Music/DepecheMode, Music/DefLeppard, Music/NewOrder, Music/FaithNoMore, Music/ThePixies and Music/FranzFerdinand are some of their most notable admirers, and JonathanRoss calls them "possibly the greatest band on the planet") and their music was crucial to the development of PunkRock, NewWaveMusic and SynthPop.

Discography:
* ''Sparks / Halfnelson'' (1971)
* ''A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing'' (1972)
* ''Kimono My House'' (1974)
* ''Propaganda'' (1974)
* ''Indiscreet'' (1975)
* ''Big Beat'' (1976)
* ''Introducing Sparks'' (1977)
* ''No. 1 In Heaven'' (1979)
* ''Terminal Jive'' (1980)
* ''Whomp That Sucker'' (1981)
* ''Angst in My Pants'' (1982)
* ''In Outer Space'' (1983)
* ''Pulling Rabbits Out of a Hat'' (1984)
* ''Music That You Can Dance To'' (1986)
* ''Interior Design'' (1988)
* ''Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins'' (1994)
* ''Plagiarism'' (a CoverAlbum/tribute album of their older songs, 1997)
* ''Balls'' (2000)
* ''Lil' Beethoven'' (2002)
* ''Hello Young Lovers'' (2006)
* ''Exotic Creatures Of The Deep'' (2008)
* ''The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman'' (2009)
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!!This band provides examples of:
* ADayInTheLimelight: The narrator of "When Do I Get To Sing "[[Music/FrankSinatra My Way]]"" is desperately waiting for his.
* AlwaysSomeoneBetter: "Lighten Up Music/{{Morrissey}}" is about a guy whose crush isn't interested in him, because he's not enough like Morrissey.
* AmbiguousGender: Russell in the early days. The operatic falsetto didn't help.
* AntiChristmasSong: "Thank God it's Not Christmas", combined with AntiLoveSong: a man dreads the Christmas season because he has to spend it with his dull wife.
* AntiLoveSong: "Throw Her Away (And Get a New One)", "Confusion", "Eaten by the Monster of Love". ''Pulling Rabbits out of a Hat'' and ''Hello Young Lovers'' alternate between this and SillyLoveSongs. See also AntiChristmasSong above.
* AsLongAsItSoundsForeign: "Hasta Manana Monsieur" depicts a man struggling to woo a girl in her native tongue. Unsure of her nationality, he takes random, wild stabs at every continent.
* TheAssimilator: "Eaten By The Monster of Love" describes men (and dogs!) being swallowed and spat out as sad creatures with "goo-googly eyes" and "sickly smiles." Resistance is futile.
* AttentionWhore: The subject of "Here Comes Bob", which details a man so desperate to have friends, he crashes his car into others. And Buses. And mobile homes. And passenger trains.
* AudienceParticipationSong: "Metaphor" seems to be designed as one of these ("Who's up for a metaphor?" "We're up for a metaphor!")
* BrokenRecord: The majority of ''Lil' Beethoven'' is built around stock phrases and repetition, but it is taken to extremes with "My Baby's Taking Me Home" which, apart from a spoken word monologue delivered by Russell, consists of nothing but the title recited approximately 104 times.
* CallBack: "Gratuitous Sax" is an a capella intro to the album of the same name, calling back to the title/intro track from ''Propaganda''.
* TheCameo:
** Sparks appeared in the 1976 film ''Rollercoaster'' in place of Music/{{Kiss}}, performing "Big Boy" and "Fill 'Er Up".
** Ron and Russel appeared on an episode of ''Series/GilmoreGirls'' in 2006, playing a stripped-down version of "Perfume".
** Earle Mankey's then-girlfriend appears at the beginning of "Biology 2" on their self-titled debut.
** Music/TheGoGos' Jane Wiedlin duets with Russell on "Cool Places" and "Lucky Me, Lucky You" in ''In Outer Space''.
** Director Tsui Hark appears in, well, "Tsui Hark".
** ''Plagiarism'' features Music/FaithNoMore, Music/{{Erasure}}, and Jimmy Somerville.
* ComicallyMissingThePoint: "National Crime Awareness Week" is about a criminal who thinks the titular week is a ''celebration'' of him.
* CountryMatters: The protagonist of "Hasta Manana Monsieur" has this reaction when his foreign ladyfriend mentions [[GeniusBookClub reading Kant.]]
* CoverAlbum: ''Plagiarism'', a cover album of their own songs. It was recorded after the success of ''Gratuitous Sax and Senseless Violins'' to introduce their new German fanbase to their older music. It didn't exactly work.
* CoverVersion:
** "[[Theatre/TheSoundOfMusic Do-Re-Mi]]", "[[Music/TheBeatles I Want to Hold Your Hand]]", and "[[Music/StevieWonder Fingertips]]".
** "Baby, Baby (Can I Invade Your Country)" is half original, half cover of "The Star Spangled Banner".
* CripplingOverspecialization: The narrator for "When Do I Get to Sing 'My Way'" is desperately waiting for his big break, but he only knows the one song in the title.
* CrossDresser: Ron in the album art for ''Angst in My Pants'' and the video for "I Predict".
* {{Deconstruction}}: ''Lil' Beethoven'' is this to the Pop music format.
* DemotedToExtra: ''Kimono My House''-era bassist Martin Gordon was annoyed when he saw the final album pressing, as on the back the planned band photo had been replaced with a large colour photo of the Mael brothers, with him, guitarist Adrian Fisher and drummer Norman "Dinky" Diamond being relegated to smaller, black-and-white portraits.
* DualMeaningChorus: "Without Using Hands" has a TitleOnlyChorus that the verses give different contexts to. The first verse describes men and women meeting up under the shelter of the canopy of the Paris Ritz Hotel in the rain, planning to "love tonight, without using hands". In the second verse, a couple is showing off slides of their vacation at the same hotel to their kids; the children start misbehaving, and the father laments that "the only way children are punished, unlike old times, is without using hands". Finally, it turns out that during this vacation there was an explosion at the hotel - only the hotel manager had any serious injuries, and everyone else seems pretty unconcerned that he's "going to live his entire life... without using hands" (implying he either suffered paralysis or loss of limbs).
* EnsignNewbie: The unwitting new owner in "Now That I Own the {{BBC}}."
-->"Hey, RupertMurdoch, help me out, I'm flyin' blind"
* EpicRocking: The majority of ''Hello Young Lovers''.
* {{Fanservice}}: The sleeves for ''Big Beat'' and ''Plagiarism'' (and ''Angst In My Pants'' if you swing that way).
* TheFuture: "In the Future", natch.
-->''"In the future fun is fun, in the future lots of sun"''
* GenreBusting: From the beginning the band was hard to pin down due to the constant mixing and cycling of musical styles. UpToEleven with ''Lil' Beethoven'' and beyond.
* GlamRock: From ''Kimono My House'' through ''Indiscreet''. Generally regarded as their best output period, and certainly their most popular and successful.
* GoldDigger: "La Dolce Vita"
* GratuitousFrench: "The Louvre", "Bon Voyage". Russell speaks very good French.
* HandsomeLech: The narrator for "Ladies".
* HormoneAddledTeenager: "Amateur Hour".
* HeavyMetal:
** UrExample with "(No More) Mr. Nice Guys" from their self-titled debut, which has a heavy Rock sound and loud, feedback-laden guitar solo.
** "Ugly Guys with Beautiful Girls" and "Dick Around" from the 2000s.
* IncestIsRelative: "Fa La Fa Lee" is sung from the point-of-view of a man who has sex with his sister.
* IntercourseWithYou: A ''lot'':
** "Amateur Hour" (specifically about how TheirFirstTime will always be underwhelming, but eventually "amateur hour" will be over), "Under the Table with Her", "Sextown U.S.A.", "All You Ever Think About is Sex".
** "Tryouts for the Human Race" takes it a step further: it's from the point of view of ''the sperm''.
* KavorkaMan:
** "Ugly Guys With Beautiful Girls".
** In "Sigmund Freud's Party" (which Ron co-wrote for the Belgian group Telex), we see that [[UsefulNotes/SigmundFreud Freud]] is renowned for trashing house parties and his sex exploits (taking a keen interest in a blonde "patient").
* KubrickStare: Ron loves to do this whenever there's a camera nearby.
* LargeHam: Russell. But anyone looks like a large ham next to Ron.
* ListSong: "Perfume", "Ride 'Em Cowboy"
* LongRunner: As of 2014, Sparks have been around in one form or another for ''45 years''.[[note]]This includes their earliest incarnation, Urban Renewal Project, and the original Halfnelson ''A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing'' demo album, both from 1969.[[/note]]
* LongTitle:
** ''Gratuitous Sax and Senseless Violins'', along with the album's title, has "(When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing", "[[Film/GoneWithTheWind Frankly, Scarlett, I Don't Give a Damn]]", "I Thought I Told You to Wait in the Car", "Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil"
** "As I Sit to Play the Organ at the Notre Dame Cathedral" from ''Hello Young Lovers''
** "I Can't Believe That You Would Fall for All the Crap in This Song" from ''Exotic Creatures of the Deep''
* LyricalDissonance: Every other song. For example, "Here in Heaven" is a rocking, dramatic song about a [[BlackComedy failed suicide pact]], and every other song on ''Big Beat'' is a charged Protopunk Rock song about something depressing, cynical, or irreverent.
* MinimalisticCoverArt:
** ''Kimono My House'' is a picture of two geisha girls against a green background[[note]]One of them, Michi Hirota, later contributed SpokenWordInMusic to Music/DavidBowie's "It's No Game"[[/note]]. The cover also didn't have text in its first pressing.
** ''Introducing Sparks'' is just a bust shot of Russell or Ron, depending on which side you're looking at, against a blue background with the album title. Said bust shots are combined in this page's image above.
** ''No. 1 in Heaven'' has a women in a white lab coat holding a microscope against a white background.
** ''Balls'' is just a colored circle on a gradient background.
** ''Lil' Beethoven'' is mostly text except for a miniature Beethoven cartoon in the corner.
* MisterSeahorse: "(She Got Me) Pregnant", if you take the song's title literally. It's really about a guy dealing with the emotional consequences of a one-night stand.
* {{Mondegreen}}: Their quirky lyrics+falsetto singing ''begs'' for this trope.
** The first time many people heard "Beat the Clock", [[ADateWithRosiePalms the title chant sounded like something completely different]], as Website/YouTube comments for the video shows.
* MundaneMadeAwesome: "Arts and Crafts Spectacular", from the Halfnelson ''A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing'' demo album, treats a gathering of kindergarten-level crafts with the excitement of a film premiere.
* TheMusical: ''The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman''
* NewSoundAlbum:
** ''Kimono Hy House'' began their GlamRock era
** ''Big Beat'' attempted a stripped-back, Protopunk Rock sound
** ''Introducing Sparks'' attempted a sunny West Coast sound
** ''No. 1 in Heaven'' began their SynthPop period, which also frequently included Music/NewWave, PowerPop, or Electronic Dance music
** ''Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins'' took the Electronic Dance UpToEleven after a several-year hiatus, with a big 90's Eurodance influence.
** ''Lil' Beethoven'' began a GenreBusting era which mixed ChamberPop with dance music and HipHop influences.
* NewWaveMusic: ''Whomp that Sucker'' through ''Interior Design'' alongside their developing SynthPop style. See SynthPop below.
* NoSympathy: "Waterproof".
* PieInTheFace: Ron is the victim of this on the ''In Outer Space'' cover and the video for its single, "All You Ever Think About Is Sex". He got it once more when they performed the album in full during their 21 Albums Tour.
* PowerPop: Coincides with their GlamRock and NewWaveMusic albums.
* PrecisionFStrike: "The Angels":
-->''They feel so ashamed''\\
''Because you look so fucking good''
* PunBasedTitle:
** ''Kimono My House'' is a pun on the title of the traditional pop song "Come on-a My House".
** ''Angst in My Pants'' is an obvious pun on "ants in my pants".
** ''Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins'' is a play on "gratuitous sex and senseless violence".
* TheQuietOne: Ron keeps the vocal duties to his brother. He made two spoken-word song appearances ("Under the Table with Her" and "Senseless Violins") before finally making his singing debut in ''The Seduction of Ingmar Burgman'' as a cab driver and a tour guide... nearly 40 years after the band formed. He speaks as much as Russell in interview situations though.
* RecordProducer: Have '''DIY'''-produced the majority of their records starting with ''In Outer Space''. Prior, they made use of Music/ToddRundgren (''Sparks''), Muff Winwood (''Kimono My House'', ''Propaganda''), [[Music/DavidBowie Tony Visconti]] (''Indiscreet''), Rupert Holmes and Jeffrey Lesser (''Big Beat''), Terry Powell (''Introducing Sparks''), Music/GiorgioMoroder (''No. 1 In Heaven'', ''Terminal Jive''[[note]]along with Harold Faltermeyer[[/note]]), and Moroder associate Mack (''Whomp That Sucker'', ''Angst in My Pants'').
* RecycledTitle: Their second album, ''A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing'', recycles its name from their first demo album as Halfnelson.
* RevengeOfTheSequel: ''The Revenge of Two Hands, One Mouth Tour''
* RichesToRags: The protagonist of "Dick Around" goes through this after his wife leaves him, prompting him to lose the motivation that first got him to riches.
* {{Sampling}}: UrExample with their 1969 demo and 1971 debut albums. The arrangements and sound effects were too complex to completely record live, so parts were recorded to tape then overlaid into the final mix later.
* SelfBackingVocalist: Russell does this a lot, such as on "Equator" and every song on their 2000s albums.
* SelfTitledAlbum: Their first album, which was also self-titled when the band were called Halfnelson. It was re-released as ''Sparks'' after the band changed their name.
* SerialKiller: "National Crime Awareness Week" is sung from an inept killer's point of view as he taunts the police.
* ShoutOut:
** Several songs are shout outs to films, including two for ''Film/GoneWithTheWind''[[note]]The ''Indiscreet'' outtake "Gone With the Wind" (later a ''Big Beat'' bonus track), and "Frankly Scarlett, I Don't Give a Damn" from ''Gratuitous Sax''[[/note]] and one for ''Film/CitizenKane''.[[note]]"Rosebud" from ''Music You Can Dance To''[[/note]] Filmmaker Tsui Hark receives a simultaneous ShoutOut and TheCameo in "Tsui Hark" from ''Gratuitous Sax''.
** "Madonna" is about [[IntercourseWithYou a one-night stand]] with [[Music/{{Madonna}} the famous singer]].
** "When Do I Get to Sing 'My Way'" references the Music/FrankSinatra song and [[Music/SexPistols Sid Vicious's]] infamous cover.
** "(When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing" namechecks the eponymous saxophonist as well as quoting the famous musical line "And the hills are alive with ''Theatre/TheSoundOfMusic''".
** "Lighten Up, Music/{{Morrissey}}" is a tribute to the eponymous singer. The song's narrator is being brushed off by his girlfriend because Morrissey is so much cooler than him.
* SiameseTwinSongs: The title/intro song from ''Propaganda'' leads immediately into "At Home, At Work, At Play". Both are played together live.
* SiblingTeam: The Mael brothers. The band's first incarnation also included brothers Jim and Earle Mankey on bass and guitar.
* SiblingYinYang: Deliberately played up by flamboyant frontman Russell and stodgy, button-down keyboardist Ron.
* SillyLoveSongs: Often, though not as much as LyricalDissonance Love Songs. Includes "Wonder Girl", "When I'm With You", "(When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing". ''Pulling Rabbits out of a Hat'' and ''Hello Young Lovers'' alternate between this and {{Anti Love Song}}s.
** "Fa La Fa Lee" is a Silly Love Song about incest. [[EstablishingCharacterMoment It's from their first album]].
* StageMom: "Talent Is An Asset", to Albert Einstein, no less.
* StepUpToTheMicrophone:
** Ron provided brief spoken word sections in "Under the Table With Her" and "Senseless Violins", then he finally sang for ''The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman''.
** Founding guitarist Earle Mankey sings "Biology 2" on their self-titled debut.
* SomethingSomethingLeonardBernstein: On the 70s material, Russell Mael frequently sings in such an odd falsetto that it can often be hard to discern any lines other than the title of the song. A good example is "Here In Heaven".
* TheStoic: Ron Mael is the absolute king of this trope. A good example is [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnM3Iq977JU this video]].
** NotSoStoic: Off-stage he's much more relaxed and cheerful. Almost every picture of him from the ''Two Hands One Mouth Tour''-on has him smiling widely.
* StopHelpingMe: The title character of "Suzie Safety" is always helping and protecting the narrator, and he's starting to resent it. [[invoked]]
* SuspiciouslySpecificDenial: "There's No Such Thing as Aliens"
* SynthPop: Began with ''No. 1 in Heaven'' and ran through the 80s and 90s until ''Balls'' in 2000.
** ''No. 1 in Heaven'' also makes them an UrExample of the "fire and ice"[[note]]Passionate vocals set to cold synthesizers[[/note]] SynthPop duo that grew to popularity in the 80s with bands like Music/{{Yazoo}} and Music/SoftCell.
* TakeThat:
** "Suburban Homeboy" is a mockery of privileged youths who try to act street, set to a classy, vaudevillian orchestra arrangement.
** "What Are All These Bands So Angry About?" is thought to be a swipe at the mainstream popularity of angsty NuMetal bands in the late '90s-early 2000s.
* TheirFirstTime: "Amateur Hour"
* ThreeChordsAndTheTruth:
** ''Big Beat'' is stripped-down Rock centered on guitars and drums. Fittingly, it was partially inspired by the burgeoning PunkRock movement in New York. Subverted with its last song "I Like Girls", which employs a full orchestra.
** The ''Two Hands One Mouth'' and ''Revenge of Two Hands One Mouth'' tours consisted of only Russel's voice and Ron's keyboard, with all of the songs played minimalistically.
* UnpluggedVersion: The ''Two Hands One Mouth'' live tour and its corresponding album, which comprises of stripped-down versions of older material accompanied with just a keyboard and Russell's voice.
* VisualPun: The cover art for ''No. 1 in Heaven'' has a spark plug in the top right corner.
* VocalRangeExceeded: Famously averted. Russell has roughly a 2.5 octave vocal range.
* WhammyBid: The subject of "Now That I Own the BBC", in one of the most delightfully preposterous auctions ever. Subverted in that the winning bid, a measly 5, still had the whammy effect.
* YouCanLeaveYourHatOn: The video for "I Predict", courtesy of [[MrFanservice Ron]]. [[CrossDresser In drag]].
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