In the obscenely profuse world of pop culture, keeping up has become a virtual impossibility. So, it's without shame that I admit to never having heard of Sparks, an art rock-duo created by two brothers, Ron and Russell Mael.
Sparks, it turns out is hardly a newcomer on the rock scene: The brothers have been making music since the 1960s, usually with the support of other musicians assembled for bands that have morphed through a variety of incarnations.
Lead singer Russell serves as frontman. But the most compelling figure is keyboardist Ron, who sports a razor-thin mustache and approaches his work with a deadpan gaze that deflects interpretation.
Perhaps because he knows that many of his viewers won’t be familiar with Sparks, director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) allows The Sparks Brothers to run for two hours and 15 minutes. The length should prove educational for tyros and satisfyingly abundant for aficionados.
Though it became big in Britain, Sparks never cracked the ceiling that leads to megastardom. The group more than makes up for its lack of mega-aura with durability. Sparks continually adapts and recreates itself -- not to keep pace with any trend, but to vent the group's considerable creativity.
The brothers' interests have taken them from serious but non-reverential interest in French New Wave cinema to albums with titles such as Kimono My House, Whomp that Sucker, and Lil' Beethoven.
Sparks manages a neat trick: The band delivers the rock goods while also keeping a tongue firmly planted in cheek, particularly when it comes to the businesses of rock. When a producer suggested they do an album to which people could dance, the brothers wryly named their record Music That You Can Dance To.
Wright includes interviews (ranging from fan Patton Oswalt to Todd Rundgren to Flea to Mike Myers), all laudatory.
It's probably a good idea to get ready for more Sparks to fly.
Along with director Leos Carax, the brothers wrote the script for Annette, a Carax-directed movie starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard that will premiere at Cannes in July. The story reportedly is told almost entirely through song and if The Sparks Brothers is any indication, the movie won't lack for invention, wit, and perhaps even a danceable beat.