Sparks, 'Exotic Creatures of the Deep' (Lil' Beethoven)

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Exotic Creatures of the Deep
Critical Mass
Label: Lil' Beethoven

by Barry Walters

For their 21st album, these eternally deft, art-pop brothers stick to the operatic splendor they embraced on 2002's Lil' Beethoven. Russell Mael warbles falsetto witticisms while keyboardist Ron overdubs himself into digitized mini symphonies, sometimes adorned by metal-guitar riffage (check the "Sweet Child o' Mine"–like doodle that animates "Lighten Up, Morrissey"). As before, the least substantial choruses often repeat the longest, but it's a shortcoming offset by archly charming verses flaunting byzantine puns and rhymes that prove the Maels are as ambitiously eccentric as ever.

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