Gloryoski! When it rains, it pours. Just four days after the stunning trailer for the Mael Brothers’ first narrative film, “Annette” hit the web, came news last Friday morning that the busy brothers had released a new collaborative single with an artist incapable of gathering moss, Todd Rundgren. Half a century ago, Todd had produced the self-titled debut album by Halfnelson, a band he got signed to Albert Grossman’s Bearsville label, which was Rundgren’s recording home for most of the 70s. After the album flopped, Grossman suggested a change of band name, and liked “The Sparks Brothers” with the Mael’s compromising with just the more iconic Sparks. The album was reissued with a different cover the following year, to little acclaim once more.
And that was it for Rundgren’s involvement with the band until his involvement with the “Sparks Brothers” documentary [what goes around…] that Edgar Wright was filming recently. The two factions found themselves in a room together and Rundgren gamely suggested a collaboration if they were up to it. Todd was working on a teamup album called “Space Force,” to be released later this year and the Mael’s took him up on the idea. They sent him an unfinished track, “Your Fandango,” that Todd finished off and now it will be a 7″ single on July 30, 2021. But we can have the DL right now and I think I waited all of 12 seconds before buying it.
The first two bars were robotic minimal synthpop with Russell repeating the mantra-like chorus [“everybody likes it when you do your fandango, when you do your fandango, when you do your fandango”] that weaves through the song incessantly; marking the track as one dating perhaps as far back as the seminal “L’il Beethoven” period for the band. It certainly was built on that same kind of chassis of repetition that the 2002 album was famed for.
Then the vibe switched to chunky glam rock with a pronounced backbeat for several more bars as Russell interwove his lilting BVs. Then with a Rundgren vocal trill, the acoustic flamenco guitars hit as the song made its third radical mood shift in its first minute. It was the musical equivalent of successive jump cuts but the mantra-drone vocal of Russell carried through a thread of continuity that ultimately held this song impressively together in spite of the almost random stylistic shifts throughout.
When Rundgren appeared for his vocal turns, in came the harpsichord and his willfully eccentric vocals for the first verse that was so gleefully over the top that he managed the not insubstantial achievement of upstaging Sparks [and sounding like he was having a great time doing it]. Rundgren said that he added his vocal parts and lyrics to the song to fill in its unfinished spaces and if he wrote the lyrics in his first verse below, then he’d really met Ron as a peer on the battlefield of song.
In a bright pink tuxedo
Or a little tiny speedo
You make everyone’s libido
Stop and say Oh Yes IndeedoYour Fandango
The second dose of Rundgren managed to make the first one sound staid as he slotted in a Sousa march complete with a full-bodied Neapolitan cantata [sung in fortissimo, naturally] in a manner that had me agog that he was able to get the vocal take down without cracking up. Then more vocal trills and a digital flamenco run as the song built up its climax with layer upon layer of aural fondant icing. Best of all the arrangement of the song was conducive to repeat play that managed to loop seamlessly for really enjoyable infinite playback.
The net result of this teamup was a song that reflected the moderne Sparks trope of being minimal and repetitive while the song’s construction was a throwback to the band’s overripe Glam Rock roots. And Rundgren sounded like he had a blast going far, far beyond the limits of good taste in doing so. I also can’t shake the notion that its very title was a case of Sparks re-claiming the vibe that Queen had pilfered for their “Bohemian Rhapsody” back in the day. And the DL was one of the vaunted $0.99 songs that I’ve heard that iTunes has for sale, yet rarely see when it comes time to buy. So that was appreciated as well.
If you want some old school thrills, Cleopatra Records [Rundgren’s label for this album campaign] will be releasing a colored vinyl 7″ on July 30, 2021 and buyers may pre-order the wax in their choice of red, white, and gold currently, with the B-side of the wax featuring an instrumental mix of the track that will most likely only figure there. The price is $13.98 and if this calls out to you, then hit that button below.