In a music industry where the dreck rises to the top of the charts and the cream gets tagged as "cult," it's comforting to see Sparks persevere over the decades in spite of a mostly indifferent American audience. Fronted by the brothers Ron and Russell Mael, the Los Angeles group has fought the pricks for going on four decades, racking up a few UK chart hits in the process. Now comes Hello Young Lovers
, a well-crafted and hilarious 20th album. Perhaps the added heft of hip indie label In the Red will help Sparks generate some well-deserved stateside attention. (Adding to its indie-rock credibility, the band includes former members of Redd Kross and Faith No More.) In The Red is known as a garage-rock label, but Sparks is definitely not
a garage band. Think Queen crossbred with Ween. Typical of Sparks' albums, Hello Young Lovers
is filled with sophisticated wordplay, campy allure and laugh-out-loud humor atop crunching heavy-metal riffs that morph into classical string arrangements. Hello Young Lovers
starts strong, with the album's cleverest tune, "Dick Around," an ode to slackers everywhere, and manages to keep up the momentum through knee-slappers such as "(Baby Baby) Can I Invade Your Country" and "Rock, Rock, Rock." If you enjoy a healthy dose of wit with your pop, Hello Young Lovers
should be on your shopping list.