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Music that you can dance to, introducing Sparks

| Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Emma Kirner | The Observer

Documentaries have the reputation of being relatively simple; full of individual talking heads, firsthand video footage, photo montages and a logical progression. It’s predictable. Of course, there are many different types of documentaries covering a wide range of subjects, but the formula in which stories are told doesn’t vary much from film to film and director to director. This type of cinematic practice is difficult, because the film places so much value on telling a real story that directors often forget to add a dash of creativity and uniqueness. Nevertheless, due to the genre’s predictability, there is plenty of room to totally reinvent the genre while still remaining true to the essence of documentary film making. There is a fine line between creatively spicing up the genre and visual distraction, so directors need to find a nice middle-ground. Earlier this year, on January 30th, 2021, to be exact, at the Sundance Film Festival, critically acclaimed English director, producer and screenwriter Edgar Wright found the sweet spot by ingeniously balancing storytelling and aesthetics while remaining true to the people, subjects and topics necessary to create a documentary in his film “The Sparks Brothers.”

Now, you may be asking, “Who the heck are these Sparks brothers, and why does one of them have a very suspicious looking mustache?” Well, allow me to tell you about your new favorite band.

I am not surprised if you don’t know who the Sparks are — even some of their most dedicated fans are left wondering about their story. They may be one of the most prolific bands in the industry, with 25 studio albums since 1966, but despite their consistent presence, they remain a mystery. This vagueness surrounding their existence is not due to a lack of public appearance and/or reception, but I believe it’s because they are almost too intelligent, witty and eccentric for the general public to fully grasp. Before I get to the nuances of their entity, let me tell you a bit about them. Sparks is a pop/rock duo consisting of brothers Ron and Russell Mael; Ron is the mustached man on the keys while Russell is the dynamic frontman.

The band’s make-up is simple: Ron writes the lyrics and the music and Russell charismatically delivers the songs. It’s a musical recipe that has been seen time and time again, but the eccentricity and wit of their lyrics is what pushes their music to the forefront. Albums like “A Woofer in Tweeters Clothing,” “Kimono My House” and “Angst in my Pants” not only bring about a sense of humor, but also a great amount of depth, introspection and insight into a world that is uniquely Ron Mael’s. We might be living on the same planet as the Sparks, but they have the ability to reach beyond what we are able to see in order to give us fun, exciting and dynamic music that is exclusively theirs.

Edgar Wright does an incredible job of delivering their story in a fresh way that captivates you from the moment the film begins to roll. The documentary preserved a few classic elements such as individual talking heads and firsthand footage, but in a way that demonstrates their impact across generations of music and the subtle ways in which they are the true founding fathers of modern pop music.

They are your favorite band’s favorite band; they will soon be yours too.


Title: “The Sparks Brothers”

Director: Edgar Wright (“Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” “Baby Driver”)

Where to watch: AppleTV, Amazon Prime

Shamrocks: 5 out of 5

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About Willoughby Thom

my name is Willoughby. i am the associate scene editor. i am from Los Angeles. i am a junior studying Art History and French. i like music and words. my favorite band is Oingo Boingo and my favorite film is "The Royal Tenenbaums." follow me on twitter @willoughbythom !

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