Sparks, Kimono My House

It's the American invasion: the faux-Anglos from that bastion of Britaindom, Los Angeles. That's only the beginning, because what they've wrought, besides a great long-playing Memorex ad that shatters glass at twenty paces, is an amazing, enjoyable, innovative infusion of humour, art and intelligence into glam rock. It doesn't hurt that Russ Mael's rafter-raising vocals make the songs instantly identifiable, but the knowing lyrics, unpredictable styles and thoroughly original subject matter make it fun. They took a cowboy cliché, for crying out loud, complete with gunshots and a charging guitar line, and made it into a metaphor for serial relationships ("This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us"). Albert Einstein's formative years from his parents' perspective are dissected in "Talent is An Asset." The globe becomes the distance between a man and woman who can't meet in the middle on "Equator." Get the picture, gaijin? The production values are strong, even if the sound is occasionally a little muddy, and the consistency of Ron Mael's songsmanship and the occasionally danceable rhythms are head and shoulders above their uneven earlier works. Two reissues exist; the original reissue adds two great B-sides, "Barbecutie" (guffaw and kneeslaps) and "Lost And Found," while the second adds a live version of "Amateur Hour" from a later incarnation of the band which is admittedly inferior. Never mind that. Enjoy these wackjobs' first truly great album no matter where you find it, because you won't find any other album that simultaneously achieves its goals for art, intelligence, quality and humour anywhere else in the world. (Content: innuendo, sexual themes.)