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Sparks – Veronica Lake Review

Sparks and their upbeat maintenance on the title track for new album The Girl is Crying in Her Latte was a wonderful shock to the system. Continue on with this second single, Veronica Lake. Try not to confuse Veronica Lake, the second single from electropop legends Sparks with Veronica Mars, the aptly titled indie powerhouse from Blondshell’s debut record. Those not suffering from exhaustion will have no trouble keeping the two apart, but for those working double-digit hours daily and having power naps in the middle of the day as a treat, it becomes rather taxing. Quite fun too, though. Sparks’ latest track is an energetic shot to the blinkered system and much of that comes from its relaxed and minimalist electronic beat. 

Despite that relaxed appeal, there is an intensity in the lyrics, the war ongoing, the fear of independence and uniqueness at the behest of turning style or feeling toward an American film actress. Shimmering electronics and a timeless vocal run-through from Russell Mael give Sparks a timeless quality. Attention given to hair and placement conjures interesting images as Ron Mael batters away on the electronica tribute to This Gun For Hire star. Although Sparks are roughly fifty years late to paying tribute to the late star, her image and the posters associated with her best works suit the Mael brothers’ style and chart nicely throughout this track. Their abilities are put to the test here, and though the brothers are successful, it is their opening lyrics that hit with the potential for exploration. 

Superfighters, warfare and B-29s all come through before Veronica Lake is mentioned. Her classy rise and rise are charted with brief biopic appeal, strong vocal impressions from Russell as he laments Lake’s passing and her impact during wartime as a fantasy world essential, is stunning. Thoroughly well placed those lyrics are, it does not quite connect with the harsher, industrial-style clangs and beat of The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte. It tries, and where the mix is solid and utilising firm synthesizer beats, there is a somewhat rigid feel that contrasts with Russell’s impassioned exploration into a late artist. Maybe the contrast between the two shows two pistons pumping in unison, each with a different perspective. It never feels that way, but Veronica Lake could be just that. 

Still confident, still powerful and as Sparks near their twilight years in projects that often seem befitting of their final, conclusive work, Veronica Lake feels like a gasp. A realisation from the pair who have influenced many, that they themselves have yet to thank their own heroes. Veronica Lake must have some layer of appreciation for the artist at the heart of their point, otherwise, it would not work. Sparks know that, and their listeners are in on it too. It makes for a wonderful, communal feel on their second single ahead of The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte. Contrast of character and emotive resonance has always been the core of Sparks, and while they manage it well here, it feels as though Veronica Lake is set for a slow burn, rather than a roaring immediacy as their latest album’s title track discovered.  

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Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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