A band formed in the late 1960’s, Sparks are one of the most unique musical groups ever assembled. The group is led by brothers Ron and Russel Mael and their unconventional way of performing and creating songs is showcased by director Edgar Wright and his supportive group of fans and band members in the new documentary ‘Spark Brothers.’ Wright pays tribute to the band by unraveling old clips, partaking in interviews with band members and other musicians, and hearing Ron and Russels’ side of the story. Regardless if you are a fan or not it is truly fascinating to hear the history of the Sparks and why they have created dozens of albums and hundreds of songs.
In an interesting and almost vintage-like fashion Wright conducts the documentary by having interviews talking about the brothers or themselves and easily relates them to the chronological layout of the documentary. This chronological structure allows for fans and people who may have never heard of the band to easily follow along in the timeline of the Sparks. The documentary actually starts out with a FAQ run through with brothers Ron and Russel (it is quite comical and truly shows their unique personalities). It then dives into the early life of the brothers and their history with music and how the Sparks officially came to be. As the documentary progresses these interviews provide a lot of insight from fans, band members, and other musicians. Some of the notable interviewees include Michael Meyers, Beck, Simon Pegg, Fred Armisen, ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, and Flea. The other interviewees are past and present band members, along with fans and roadies who followed them on tour and still to this day follow all their music.
With a band so distinct, it is truly hard to capture all the elements that make them so special. Ron and Russel are huge personalities, each in their own way. The documentary does a great job revealing what made them so different from other bands. It focuses on how Russels’ stage presence was so bizarre just standing straight faced playing the piano. On the other hand Rons’ shining personality brought the crowd together. Their rise to fame was in part due to how their mannerisms were so different and mentioned in the documentary were their questionable song lyrics and almost comedy-like songs.
A main focus of the documentary is showing how they were interpreted by fans (the interviewees) but also how they were able to maintain success for so long and even through today. Wright does a great job at strategically going chronologically throughout their career because we get to see why their music progressed so well and adapted to new time periods and genres of music. As the documentary progresses we get to go through each album not only hearing about how it came to be but hearing Ron and Russels’ thoughts behind the music along with the band members at the time. The Sparks are known for being different. A lot of music was comical but also good music so fans had a tough time differentiating the two forms of entertainment. They are also quite underrated for their influence on other bands. Before pop techno music in the 80’s took off, they released “No.1 In Heaven” which can be cited as the first popular pop techno. Wright does a great job at including clips from concerts and tv shows (where they made a name for themselves) which allows the viewer to see first hand the thought they put into the background of their shows and also how their personalities got them attention.
Verdict: 4 out of 5
Whether you are a fan of the Sparks or not, this film is great to understand what made them so renowned and be able to continue their music into today. The interviews all are very interesting and necessary clips to fully understanding the timeline and outcome of their career.