“The Sparks Brothers” Is the Sparks Documentary We’ve Been Waiting A Half Century For

The trailer for Edgar Wright’s “The Sparks Brothers” docu

Great Googly-Moogly! Somehow this flew under my radar until this morning,this year’s Sundance Film Festival, a documentary on the iconic band Sparks made its premiere and on January 30th and February 1st, we actually could have seen this premiere, through a virtual streaming ticket. Had I only known, I would have secured tickets and would have carried the iMac into the living room last Saturday night to watch this with my lovely wife [who would have also enjoyed it fully].

Alas, now that it has had it’s moment in the limelight of the indie festival to end all indie festivals, we must await the purchase and wider distribution of this gemstone of a documentary. As we know from bitter experience, it can sometimes take years until this may take place. And there’s no guarantee that it will happen at all, but at least this film has a high profile director. That could only help.

Edgar Wright

The Director

Behind the camera for this one was Edgar Wright; the cultish British director of beloved, yet quirky genre films which I must admit that I’ve never seen. I’m aware of movies like “Hot Fuzz,” “Shaun Of The Dead” and “Baby Driver” but have not been motivated to watch anything of his… until now. As we have watched the trailer [see above] several times already, I can see the usual assortment of celebrities [most unknown to my eyes] weighing in on the impact that the fraternal genii have had on their various creative lives. I appreciated seeing Martyn Ware  and the crucial Durannic Duo® of Nick Rhodes and John Taylor, along with the always welcome “Weird Al” Yankovic, but the cake was surely taken by Mr. Paul Morley who proclaimed…

“They are the best British group ever to come out of America.” – Paul Morley

Those are sage words with which we cannot find any fault at all. The Mael brothers are in there being interviewed as well, but the wealth of film and video clips from throughout the band’s, yes 50 year career [surely cause for an international holiday?] are making me salivate. They began their journey as musical wunderkinder – now transformed into wunderelder, who have continually managed to astonish with their creative turns over a career length that saw all other bands [let’s be frank] trying and failing to match their levels of accomplishment. And they are still busy and productive, even if I’ve shamefully failed to buy their latest opus due to the distraction of a global pandemic.

Seeing the various video clips [Sparks on American Bandstand – take that John Lydon!] certainly reminded me that as much as twenty years ago, there was a notion put foerth on the Official Sparks website that a comprehensive DVD of the band’s countless, vivacious music videos was “in the works” and one hopes that as challenging as such a task would be, that it would one day come to pass. Even though the band will surely keep producing art until they drop, one suspects. I shudder inwardly at the licensing and clearance paperwork, but I’d pay whatever the price asked for such an undertaking. Sparks intentional and thoughtful presentation of their music is every bit as fascinating as their music was on its own.

sparks live in londin dvd cover art

I certainly hope that this will get a DVD release at some point this year. But if it gets shunted into Satan’s Streaming Services®, then know ye this: due to the Disc-Free Hell of The Now, This Monk has finally obtained an old, slightly modern flat-screen TV [SFX: thundercrack] and as soon as we get the streaming box for it, we will be able to see films that have no discs or cinema screens to call their home. Hopefully it won’t come to that and a disc I can place next to this one in the Record Cell will be forthcoming. But if not, then we have thrown down the gauntlet and have been thrust kicking and screaming in to the early 21st century. Watch this space.

-30-

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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20 Responses to “The Sparks Brothers” Is the Sparks Documentary We’ve Been Waiting A Half Century For

  1. jsd says:

    I paid the money for this and watched it. It’s a funny beast. At once too short and too long. Obviously when condensing a 50 year history into 2 hours and change some things are going to have to be skipped. But also it does get a little wearying hearing how brilliant these guys are over and over. Not that any word of it is false, but it’s just… a little much… by the end. Still, worth seeing, although you really should watch Edgar Wright’s entire filmography. This is a fine and completely competent documentary, but it follows the standard template pretty closely, whereas Wright’s other films are wildly innovative and imaginative. Scott Pilgrim vs The World is one of my favorite things ever.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      jsd – Yeah, the Praising Head shots in the trailer were already a bit much. We all acknowledge their brilliance, right? With a scanty 2:20 running time to cover the whole enchilada, there could have been more archival footage.

      One home video I did enjoy for that kind of career overview approach was Roxy Music’s “Total Recall.” It was a 90 minute compilation of just clips of performances and music videos that summed up the band’s timeline. No interviews from beginnings to the mid-80s. No announcer. Just titles. At the time I was thrilled and annoyed that the full clips weren’t shown but years later, most of it came out on other LDs and DVDs that I now have. Even that sort of approach would be great for a band with such a history. And as a précis to a vast career, invaluable.

      How much was the fee on that film, by the way. I was curious as to how much it would have cost but the two showings were days past and such info was not forthcoming.

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      • JT says:

        >One home video I did enjoy for that kind of career overview approach was Roxy Music’s “Total Recall.”

        This is one good way to give a fresh approach to the tired rockumentary format. Another recent success was the Beastie Boys film from 2020. My interest in them is moderate at best, but their doc is unique, consisting of the two surviving members telling their story on a stage in front of an audience, with a big screen behind them showing archival interviews and clips. I’m not aware of any other doc presented like this.

        Liked by 1 person

        • postpunkmonk says:

          JT – I’m a very casual Beastie Boys fan. That I can say this after their debut album is astonishing to me. I basically think that “Paul’s Boutique” is genius. It never fails to make me crack a smile while listening. it is their collective DNA rendered via samples and words. I also enjoyed “Check Your Head” but “Ill Communication lost me. Thanks for reminding me that this was out there as I’d like to see it.

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      • jsd says:

        @monk – it was $15, and honestly I probably wouldn’t do it again because the restrictions were onerous. I was in the “second screening” which was slightly more permissive too! Basically you had from 7AM Feb 1 to 7AM Feb 2, and once you started you had to finish within 4 hours. I work normal job hours, and I have family stuff to deal with too. I had to stay up later than I would have liked to finish within the window.

        Oh, I forgot – Sparks & Edgar did a video discussing the documentary. It’s up on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hjKncahOKA

        Liked by 1 person

        • postpunkmonk says:

          jsd – Well, with it being a “film festival” [and the grandaddy of film indie film festivals] I’m not surprised it was harder than renting a widely streaming movie as at our local art cinemas, or iTunes. Four hour window? That’s harsh, but when Nick Cave streamed his performance last year, we had to stay up and watch it past our bedtime on a weeknight and take the next day of work! So this was slightly better, I’d venture.

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  2. diskojoe says:

    I can’t wait to see this documentary. I do have friends who have streaming so if I have to do so, I could see it that way if a DVD isn’t coming.

    Also, I used the DVD burning capacity of my work computer along w/Real Player Plus to burn a bunch of great Sparks stuff from “Wonder Girl” on German TV to the Hippoptamus videos, along with live concerts.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      diskojoe – RealPlayer Plus…??!! RealPlayer still exists?!?! [sputters]

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      • diskojoe says:

        Yes, indeed it does exist. RealPlayer Plus gave me the ability to download stuff from YouTube so that I could burn it on DVD. I went nuts on it, burning about 100 DVDs of various things that meet your approval (Sparks, Roxy Music, XTC) or not (Kate Bush). The cool thing was that I could burn DVDs while doing other things on the computer like work.

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        • JT says:

          >RealPlayer Plus gave me the ability to download stuff from YouTube

          Or alternatively, there are several web browser plug-ins that add a “download” button to YouTube. This, coupled with the privacy-focused TOR browser, allow easy grabbing of stuff to watch later off-line (or burn to disc as you like), while dodging most of the negative effects of the global spy empire we call G***le / YouTube.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. postpunkmonk says:

    I thought I’d mention this in case anyone reads the comments, but I found the shots of Ron Mael showing off his snow globe collection riveting. Mainly in that it showed closeups of his hands and I froze the frames in the player to see what his hands looked like. Hands say a lot about a person and those closeups showed detail. I noticed flecks of paint [yellow and green] in the cuticles and under the nails. Also damaged fingernails. So those looked like the hands of a man who did work with them. And he’d recently been painting. I would pick Ron as more of an artist than a home improvement guy, so he’s seemingly active in making visual art.

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  4. The first few people singing the praises of Sparks in the trailer:
    1. Flea
    2. I believe that’s Todd Rundgren
    3. Jason Schwartzman (as seen in all Wes Anderson movies)
    4. Incredibly Strange Film Show (and later chat show) host Jonathan Ross
    5. Nick & John
    6. Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman Palladino and Dan Palladino, I think.
    7. Comedian and film/music buff Patton Oswalt
    8. Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      chasinvictoria – Sure, sure. We all recognize Flea. And even Jason Schwartzman. The Durans. Had not seen Jonathan Ross in 35+ years, so no recognition. Todd Rundgren? Saw him live a few years back [he sang “Open My Eyes!] but don’t have a fix on him visually. Didn’t recognize him. Steve Jones is still alive?

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      • jsd says:

        2. Yep it’s Rundgren. He produced their first album (when they were still called Hafnelson).

        3. Jason Schwarzmann has an important role in Scott Pilgrim (an Edgar Wright film) so that’s the connection there.

        6. It is the Palladinos. They have great taste and use really cool music as the end credits for their shows, even when it’s anachronistic. (There’s an XTC track at the end of an episode of Mrs. Maisel, which is set in the 1950’s).

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  5. Gavin says:

    I was excited about this UNTIL I SAW THE TRAILER!
    To me,it just looks like another collection of barely interesting talking heads primed to say something witty.
    I will seek it out eventually,as I have always had an interest in the band,but can’t say that I am desperate to see it.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Gavin – Yeah, especially when I fail to recognize most of the talking heads in question. Looks like another case of the “Fulsome Praisin’ Blues”* for desperate Sparks fans. I maintain that just archival footage in chronological order, ala Roxy Music’s “Total Recall” would be more than enough to slake my thirst.

      * this phrase courtesy of Lee Elliott…

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  6. Pingback: “Beastie Boys Book” Was An Indelible Portrait Of A NYC Era [part 1] | Post-Punk Monk

  7. Pingback: Todd Rundgren + Sparks Cover A Lot Of Territory [And 50 Years] With New Single, “Your Fandango” | Post-Punk Monk

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