With a career spanning over five decades and with Ron and Russell both being brothers, their ability to still be amicable to each other (let alone collaborate and make music together whilst trying to “Lighten Up, Morrissey”) is praiseworthy. A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip is the Mael brothers’ twenty-fourth LP and contains a generous fourteen tracks across fifty-four minutes of music. Known for their innovative quirkiness over the years; one must decide if what has been revered as bizarrely fresh is now prosaic.
A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip opens with “All That” beginning with a lounge jazz intro before breaking into a guitar riff, synths and a gospel feel organ. Nonetheless, the lyrics do not feel divine or appear to offer redemption but tend to ebulliently unnerve such as “Someday we’d do useful things, we’d rise above, be kings and queens but knew cheap chairs would always be our thrones”.
From a song discussing mortality for the Mael musicians now in their seventies; “I’m Toast” follows. Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” instantly comes to mind and with a quirky brief organ, solo’s one will feel a sense that ownership of this song belongs to Ron and Russell. Sparks even capture the zeitgeist with lyrics “Alexa, get me out of this place”. “iPhone” equally lyrically captures modern technology blues as Sparks lament “put your fucking iPhone down and listen to me”.
Throughout A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip one can easily detect a plethora of drips of influences from other artists. Nonetheless, the bulwark of A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip is not a banal effort. The sequencing, synchronising and juxtaposition of sounds result in Sparks being victorious pioneers. Track twelve “The Existential Threat” uses musically jejune influences of The Tweets “The Birdie Song” and the macabre soundtrack of “Dammed for all Time” from Jesus Christ Superstar amidst jazz; something few, even the most imaginative artists would even consider, let alone bring to life. With panic-ridden lyrics “I paid the whole bill because insurance won’t, they just won’t cover existential meds”; Sparks inject a new lease of life into a song about panic and destruction.
Other songs where one would presume that the motley of sounds is mismatched but works to perfection include “Lawnmower” which with the “la la la” harmonies creates an ideal pop song. The use of the harpsichord to talk about a girlfriend from Andover who puts up with her boyfriend’s lawnmower is bizarre but beautiful and uplifting. Likewise, “Left out in the Cold” spectacularly brings together Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita” and Franz Ferdinand’s (Sparks’ former supergroup FFS buddies) “Come on Home”.
There are only two songs (out of fourteen) that one would say are typically Sparks (aka reminding the listener of “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us”). The first is “Stravinsky’s only Hit” with an EDM opener blossoming into a classical and rock operatic number. “Onomata Pia” is similarly jovial with an array of exciting trombones. Both of these songs are mad, jolly, sacrosanct and essential.
A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip is musically bizarre and innovative. It is immensely satisfying that a sound that came into the mainstream has been able to continually evolve and not become monotonously tiring. As well as offering eccentric circus-like fun (albeit highly intelligent); Sparks also express alarm and concern as if they are also using this LP to send out an SOS. Environmentally conscious playout track “Please don’t fuck up my world” explains how “Rivers Mountain and seas. No one knows what they’re there for still, it’s easy to see they’re things that need to be cared for”. For Sparks, concerning nature and humans; the world is big enough for both.