Sparks’ twenty-first century resurgence is one of the greatest comeback stories in popular music. After several brushes with stardom in the 1970s and early 80s, the Mael brothers were burnt out and nearly forgotten by the early 90s. Perpetually ahead of their time, the band began an upswing with 1994’s Gratuitous Sax and Senseless Violins that culminated with Edgar Wright’s documentary The Sparks Brothers in 2021. The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte is their first album since that film’s release, and finds Ron and Russell riding high on its success.
Catchy hooks are the name of the game on TGICIHL, and the opening title track sets the tone with its heavy four-on-the-floor beat and synth-heavy arrangement. The recursive lyrics puzzle over the titular girl’s woes (“Is it due to the rain? Or is she in some pain?”) and turn it into a universal anthem of depression (“So many people are crying in their latte”). The next three tracks are some of the strongest on the album, and also demonstrate the range of styles to be found: “Veronica Lake” is a bubbly electro-pop tune, while “Nothing Is As Good As They Say It Is” updates their late-70s rock sound for the modern day with a classic Russell vocal melody and quirky lyrics about a newborn baby trying to convince its mother to let it back into the womb. “Escalator,” meanwhile, is one of the album’s biggest earworms thanks to its breezy keyboard riffs and reverb-heavy production.
These first four tracks illustrate the album’s two main modes, since most of the tracks fit either the “rock” template, the “electro-pop/dance” one, or somewhere in between. There are a few tracks that nod to previous stylistic experiments, though, like the symphonic elements that flesh out the one-two punch of “Not That Well-Defined” and “We Go Dancing.” The former blends a vaguely middle-eastern sounding string-heavy score with a synth-pop base, while the latter sounds like an off-kilter EDM track where all the electronic instruments were replaced by a full orchestra. “Take Me For A Ride” is probably the strongest of these symphonic tracks, though, sounding like classic Sparks backed by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra—it shouldn’t work, but somehow it does. “It’s Sunny Today” comes close, though, with its meditative layers of string-and-harpsichord creating a hypnotic, warm feeling. The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte is a strong latter-day Sparks album that is thoroughly entertaining all the way to the end. It might be a little longer than it needs to be (clocking in at fourteen tracks and nearly 50 minutes), and some of the lyrics get a little repetitive, but it shows that the duo’s resurgence is no fluke. If you’ve liked anything they’ve produced in the last decade or two, it definitely deserves a spot in your collection.
“The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte” / “Escalator” / “Take Me For A Ride”
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