No1 Song in Heaven by Sparks & Is There More To Life Than Dancing? by Noël Review

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By Ellie Victor

This dual 45th-anniversary vinyl re-release of Sparks’ No. 1 in Heaven album and Noël’s Is There More to Life Than Dancing? celebrates two innovative records from the same creative source, namely the eternally wonderful, relentlessly offbeat genius of Ron and Russell Mael of Sparks.

No. 1 in Heaven marked a pivotal shift for the band, produced by Giorgio Moroder it is now seen as a cornerstone in the development of synth-pop, a genre that would shape the sound of the 1980s. The collaboration with Moroder, a key figure in disco, gave the Mael brothers an avenue to explore electronic music and synth-heavy production. Here, ‘Tryouts for the Human Race’ and, perhaps their most famous track, ‘Beat the Clock’ feature a pulsating, synthetic energy that is remarkable even today, offering a brand new bridge between rock and disco.

The impact of No. 1 in Heaven is undeniable – and the album’s success not only restored their commercial appeal but also solidified their place in the pop pantheon, inspiring bands like Erasure, Depeche Mode and New Order.  On the other hand, the far more obscure Is There More to Life Than Dancing? by Noël is a fascinating side story in the Sparks legacy. Entirely written and produced by the duo, it is Sparks’ deep dive into disco. Released quickly after No1 it captures the spirit of late 1970s disco, while maintaining the unique twists that are omnipresent throughout Sparks’ musical journey. Here, infectious disco gets multi-layered with cynicism and subversive energy.

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“Unconventional approach”

Noël’s peculiarly haunting voice complements the Mael brothers’ quirky approach to songwriting and production. ‘Dancing Is Dangerous’ and ‘The Night They Invented Love’ have a seductive quality, driven by thumping bass lines and ethereal saxophone riffs. The title track, with its cynical undertones, questions the very essence of disco culture, asking whether there’s more to life than the dancefloor, whilst being simultaneously rooted in the middle of it.

This unconventional approach to disco, combined with Noël’s enigmatic persona, makes it someting of a hidden gem in the Sparks catalogue, offering a glimpse into the broader creative scope of the Maels. It is, in many ways, an experiment with genre that’s also a steadfast commitment to the duo’s unique songwriting style. It may be a curio, but for Sparks aficionados, it is essential.

Two records that celebrate Sparks’ willingness to take risks – an attitude that’s well and truly alive and kicking today – both as thrillingly unique as anything in the band’s canon. Together, they capture something of the era, albeit seen through the eyes of two creative mavericks.

‘No1 Song in Heaven’ by Sparks & ‘Is There More To Life Than Dancing?’ by Noël are out on now on coloured vinyl


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