Sparks, Halfnelson

They later billed themselves as Englishmen; they were not. They billed themselves as Halfnelson; that didn't stick (in fairness Albert Grossman was largely to blame). They billed themselves as good; their début wasn't. All the pieces were there: Russ Mael sang like a 12-year-old with tight pants, Ron Mael had his stache, the lyrics were wacky and the wit was undeveloped but present. Unfortunately, the melody lines are all over the place, self-savaging otherwise better tracks ("Wonder Girl," "Simple Ballet") and dooming others ("Biology 2"), and producer Todd Rundgren left too much to the band who resorted to stripped-down mixes and studio jams because of their inexperience. The rock sort of works ("High C," "(No More) Mr Nice Guys") but doesn't really play to their strengths, and the more competent slow jams like "Fletcher Honorama" are listenable but hardly stand out. But glimpses of the future show up now and then: "Saccharin and the War's" war sacrifice motif for weight loss is only let down by the flat recording and "Slowboat" might have fallen off a better album yet to come. That album wasn't the next one A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing, either, which reissuer Edsel put together in a two disc set. The production under Thaddeus Lowe is richer, but the same problems persist, and it wasn't until they jettisoned the Mankeys and went to Island Records that they really took off. The most curious inclusion is a earlier mix of "I Like Girls," practically a demo tape, and nowhere near as fun as the fully realised version from Big Beat. About the best I can say is they got better. (Content: mild adult themes.)