Crucial for reasons of reassurance, Sparks prove The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte will feature variety with latest single, Nothing Is As Good As They Say It Is. A lengthy, tongue-in-cheek title which rings true now more than it ever does. Where can we go for trusted voices? Friends? Family? People who run websites from their bedroom, idly listening and learning while reminiscing about experiences they cannot and will not have? Who knows? Sparks do. Their latest track is a swerve away from the harsher, dominant electronics of their previous two singles, the title track for their latest album and surprise tribute to the late Veronica Lake. But here, the long-running duo hit on a light rock brevity, displaying the sad reality of nothing being as good as it used to be.
Because that is the feeling for everything, isn’t it? From Call of Duty to clawing at the remnants of love or meaning for another person, it just doesn’t feel as good as they say it used to be. Nostalgia is a cruel beast and Nothing Is As Good As They Say It Is ruminates on that well. Rumblings of fear and immediate disappointment, from womb to grave. Jarvis Cocker maintained such a thought with Further Complications, the wise decisions Sparks herald a mirror of needing some personality disorder as a chance for uniqueness as Cocker provides. Even then, Sparks regress somewhat despite dusting off the cobwebs of their rock roots. Something simple rides the waves underneath this track, and again, as Veronica Lake struggled to maintain a strong emotive response with relapsed stylings, they do here too.
At least within that relapse of style and aversion to new steps, there is something of a break from electronic heavy tones. But it is in those latter two tracks, more so the title piece than anything, where the next steps of creativity spark for Sparks. Sympathy for those doomed in the new generation goes a long way to making Nothing Is As Good As They Say It Is so enjoyable. Shiny and stern in equal measure as they provide context to how grim it must be to grow in a world where culture’s peak is presumably behind the new generation, ahead only darkness, budget cuts and fear. It is hard not to feel that way, the 20-somethings struggle for a place in the world come from latching onto artists of the past and hoping desperately they come together for a reunion show or bury the hatchet long enough to cough out another release.
But that has never been an issue for Sparks. Ron and Russell Mael have charted consistently and constantly, striking a chord with whichever generation looks back, or God forbid, forward, with them. Nothing Is As Good As They Say It Is is a fundamental truth and a tad ironic considering Spark’s track is not as good as it appears it could be. Fine enough and good fun, upbeat rhythm moving under the solid work Sparks always put out. Brief glimmers of excellent instrumentals and Russell’s voice is still up to scratch. Net positives and consistencies of that stature are rewarding in their own right, but do not push Sparks onto the next, exciting step.