Customer Reviews: Kimono My House
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on December 21, 1999
Ron and Russell Mael tried a curious experiment with their third album. Sparks had established itself in Los Angeles in the very early 1970s as a club act based on their deep appreciation for the early sixties Britpop acts, and in particular the Kinks. They had developed a following at the Whiskey-a-Go-Go, they had released two effective albums with their fellow bandmates the Mankey brothers (yes, the producer and later the Concrete Blonde member), they had had a very minor hit with "Wonder Girl", and they had made some initial media breakthroughs. They had not, unfortunately, sold enough records to earn a living--remember, this was years before new wave bands like the Jam made a living from such homage to an era only eight to ten years removed. The Maels reacted with a daring gambit. They had not impressed America with their Britpop sound--so why not sell their Britpop to Brits? They promptly moved to London, hired a Britpop backing band, tilted the lyrics decisively into rapid-fire Gilbert and Sullivan territory, and changed the sound into, of all things-- guitar-pop Kinks-drenched, ringing guitar, British 19th Century music hall singalong. The band used Russell's fantastically melodic and piercingly high falsetto as the centerpiece and principal driving weapon of the affair. Kimono My House is the first of two resulting records based on this sound. The whole thing improbably works, making this one of the great underappreciated acts of pop genius released in its era. Ron Mael's lyrics are laden with light opera humor, and are intelligent, contemporary, and indelibly odd. Lyrically, Sparks in this era sounds like the Residents might sound if the Residents wrote songs targeted at 12 year old girls. Russell Mael's falsetto is one of those unforgettable things--never critically appreciated, and yet absolutely unique (an analogy might be made with Keith Emerson's live work on keyboards spinning in mid-air during this time period). Kimono My House defies description--the Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz" had a similar glampop sound, but Sparks was an altogether different thing. This album is as listenable 25 years after its release as it was when it made the Maels perhaps the most unlikely teenybop idols that Melody Maker ever produced. If you're considering whether you might like Kimono My House, ask yourself the following questions: do you enjoy a band that knows how to parody itself and everything about it? do you like melodic power pop that does not take itself too seriously? do you enjoy an amusing lyric and a band that is willing to try something odd and fun? If your answers were "yes", this is the CD for you. In hindsight, Cheap Trick soon thereafter sorted out how to take the Sparkseque humor and meld it into a wonderful cartoon-metal sound. But nobody did Kinks-as-music-hall-vaudeville as well ever again....
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on July 21, 2008
Sparks has been around a long time and continue to release intriguing CD's, but their third effort remains my favorite. After two quirky and ignored albums issued as Halfnelson, the California brothers Ron and Russell Mael changed their name to Sparks, recorded "Kimono My House" (1974), and achieved stardom in England and throughout Europe.

This CD yielded 2 number one British hits: "This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us" and "Amateur Hour". Their sound was a winning combination of Queen, Roxy Music, Beach Boys, and Kinks. Ron writes great songs, and Russell equals Freddie Mercury in the falsetto department. Exciting, funny, fun - there's not enough superlatives to describe this.

They followed up with their album "Propaganda", which was good, but tried a little too hard to duplicate the successful formula of Kimono. Their next effort "Indiscreet" was a great one, as were "Big Beat" (an attempt at straight-forward arena rock), and "Angst In My Pants" (punkier - fast, short and catchy).

They then abandoned rock for a while and became semi-disco "dance music" stars. Great albums from this period are "No.1 In Heaven", "In Outer Space", "Music That You Can Dance To", and "Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins". No matter which genre they work in, all their records are infused with their trademark wit and good humor.

Sparks has put out 21 CD's as of this writing. I'm a big fan and have them all, but the truth is - some are better than others. The 8 I've singled out (9, if you count "Propaganda") are their best and most consistently good - and highly recommended. If that's more than you'd like to spend, there's the excellent 2-CD compilation "Profile: The Ultimate Sparks Collection".

Years ago a rock critic wrote: "Sparks fans remain loyal because they know the band offers kicks you can't find anywhere else". He was right.
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on February 22, 2000
I remember my first brush with Sparks -- somewhere around 1974, when I was in college. I believe it was on one of those late-night weekend TV shows that were popping up in response to the Midnight Special -- where they showed footage of contemporary bands' live stage acts. Anyway, there they were in all their glory -- three guys banging away with a hard rock beat, Russell Mael prancing around like a babe magnet and Ron Mael as the Hitler look-alike with the straight-ahead stare tapping away on the keyboard. I wasn't quite sure what to make of them at first -- especially since most of the footage I saw came complete with continuous squeals from the live audience, so much so that I couldn't hear the music very well. I hadn't seen anything like that since watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan years before. Anyway, I bought Kimono My House and was both amazed and entertained by its catchy beats and incomparable lyrics. It's not only fun, it's smart. There are a couple songs I'm not crazy about -- much like Sparks' next album, Propaganda -- but as a whole, this album sent my musical taste in a whole new direction. Of course, that purchase was made on vinyl and I haven't played any of my records in many, many years (mainly because it's difficult to find a new needle). So I bought this CD on-line a couple months ago and started living my fond remembrances all over again. My enjoyment, I'm happy to say, is no less in 2000 than it was in 1974. Viva la Sparks.
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on May 13, 2003
This is my first venture into the ever so slightly odd world of Sparks, and what a revelation! The thing that strikes me most about this album is how undated nearly all of the tracks sound. There's some lovely, chunky guitar riffs that you can really get your teeth into, and the bass and drums mesh perfectly together forming some really tight and catchy tunes. It's a flawless and direct sound that grabs you, plays with your mind a bit and then leaves you wanting more. Add to mix the unique but absolutely suited vocal talents of Russell Mael, as well as brother Ron Mael's predilection for choosing odd subject matter for lyrics, and you've got yourself something that is unequivocally eccentric and sounds like nothing else you've ever heard. Rarely have I listened to a recording with such instant, but lasting appeal. Was this really made in 1974?
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on April 4, 2013
30 years ago I heard a song by a band called SPARKS, called "I Predict". I thought to myself, "gee, they sound like Devo and The Cars. Cool." I am an idiot beyond measure. I just received KIMONO MY HOUSE in the mail yesterday. I read the reviews and felt it'd be best to start with this one if I wanted to 'discover" Sparks for myself. My girlfriend recently told me I PREDICT was in a movie she saw, and I said "let me check these guys out further." WHAT A GREAT PIECE OF WORK this record is. Now, I am embarrassed and ashamed of myself. Why? Because I had NO IDEA that SPARKS influenced just about every band I listen to from the 70's on up. The following have a debt to pay to the Mael brothers: The New Pornographers, Adam and the Ants, Sloan, Jellyfish, Queen (yes, Queen...Russel certainly gives Freddie a run for his money vocally and showmanship wise), ELO, The Cars, Devo, Redd Kross, Blondie, to name a few. The first 30 seconds of THIS TOWN and I said Oh My God I hear everyone on here...! I am happy to say that even though I'm a newbie, I am a huge fan now, and it's on to the next Sparks purchase! If you like pop MUSIC, never mind what kind of pop music,you will love this cd. Why aren't these guys in the Hall Of Fame? Oh, I know why...bands like KISS and SPARKS who have influenced thousands never get the credit they deserve.
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on December 27, 2015
Well, it took me forty years to finally listen to what a lot of critics seem to rave about 40 years ago.
And it's everything it's cracked up to be. Worth the price for the first song out of the gate, their biggest song - This Town Ain't Big Enough. But the rest of the album us almost as good. Sounding a lot like the glam bands of the day, Roxy Music, Cockney Rebel, Sweet, they sound British but are actually from Los Angeles. Do as I did, and check out the video for This Town Ain't Big Enough, and if the sight of Ron Mael smirking at his keyboard doesn't slay you, forget about it.
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on August 2, 2006
I believe it was a night in mid December 1974 when I had my first Sparks experience. It was a live concert on some obscure late night music special. Suddenly I was face to face with with Ron Mael, slouched over his keyboards and looking like the love child of Adolph Hitler and David Byrne. I was intrigued. Then came Russel Mael's warbling falsetto layered over some of the quirkiest lyrics I'd ever heard. I believe the song was Talent Is An Asset. I had to know more.

I bought Kimono My House, dropped the needle and opened my mind. This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us hit my ears with it's steady beat and clever arrangement. I remember being struck by Russel's vocal work on this song. It was unlkine anything I'd ever heard. Amateur Hour was the next Sparks nugget to strike a chord. The hook going into the chorus is what caught me. I went back and listened to the lyrics and nearly laughed myself sick. "when you turn a pro you'll know, she'll let you know!" The lyrics took me back to every nervous "encounter" I'd ever had. Thank God It's Not Christmas held the same comic appeal. Talent Is An Asset sounds like the Christy Minstrels meet the B52s. The drums kick start this musical frolic with Ron's keyboards, bass and lead guitars to follow.

What amazes me to this day is how far ahead of the game this band was. What frustrates me is that American audiences never really caught on. Before the Talking Heads and the B52s, Sparks was bending melodies and planting their lyrical tounges firmly in their cheeks. They weren't new wave, they weren't glam, and they weren't pop. They were, and still are unique and undeniably origional. The band is ambiguous,fun and fresh. Kimono My House is an ecclectic mix of black comedy lyrics and superb musicianship. I played the gooves out of this record and never grew tired of it. It's the best kept secret that I have stored in my stacks of vinyl.
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on August 18, 2005
Yes,that is a title of one of the songs from the band of ultimate actors(Histrionic Personality DisOrder diagnosed)..Sparks were a quirky bunch, a high pitched warbler,his brother a mad looking keyboard genius looking like a cross between a demented Hitler and Charlie Chaplain(coming to think of it their music was a bit fascistic with it's reliance on style and elegance combined with the irony and parody of Chaplain)Nonetheless, their music rocked hard with Continental flashes of brilliant crescendos in the right places...This CD was their best batch of songs and for a look at the UK music scene in 1974 you need not look further to see the other acts of the genre such as T-Rex,Roxy Music,Gary Glitter the look of Slade to see the amazing amount of acting and sexual posturing that went into the dash for international attention,stardom these acts left as a legacy in music history.

The remastering is fine and bonus tracks good...Their next Propoganda is like Kimono but this is a bit better in my opinion.
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on January 5, 2002
You could imagine a young Morrissey listening to this album and taking notes. The witty lyrical and falsetto singing style were very much incorporated in the Smiths. 'Kimono My House' also contains superb playing from the other band members, in particular some huge riffs from guitarist Adrian Fisher. The high energy, exuberant style lends itself perfectly to Sparks' later new wave tinged albums, especially on 1982's 'Angst in my Pants'. The Island reissue of KMH contains two very good bonus tracks, Barbecutie and the storming, rarely mentioned 'Lost and Found', which has a killer guitar line. In fact, the strong basslines and quirky guitar style are reminiscent of the early albums of Sparks contemporaries The Stranglers. To be fair though, I don't think this album is as good as the follow-up 'Propaganda' because KMH is not as complete in the song crafting.
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on January 17, 1999
Insanely over-the-top productions of nerd-angst pop masterpieces that works to perfection. An amazing achievement that, unfortunately, few people in the US have had a chance to hear. The 70's was a lot more than just disco!
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