My Other Voice

Confession: I love The Sparks in theory only!

I adore their style and image, the humour, the irony, their fantastic album covers (esp. "Propaganda" and "Indiscreet") and the influence they had on everything that was good in pop-music during the last (almost) 40 years!
But with the exception of a few songs I can´t really bring myself to listen to them. It bugs me, because I really want to like them, not only because of their hilarious, epic song-titles ("Rock n Roll people in a Disco world", "I thought I told you to wait in the car", "Angst in my pants", "Lighten up Morrissey) but the fact that they are most likely the coolest, most perfect R/Pop band ever!

But then there is "No. 1 in Heaven", the album that fused pop, rock and electronic disco like nothing that was ever done before. An epic in only six songs that explodes with the last song, the title track. My favourite song on the album, and probably my favourite Sparks song is the morbid and experimental "My other voice". This strange, slow and delirious song is placed between the hectic "Beat the clock" and "The No. 1 song in Heaven". It could be considered a bit of a downer and it is probably the strangest song on an already strange album.

I always saw "My other voice" as a sort of Overture for "The No 1 song in heaven". If the latter was the one you´d hear all over in paradise, "My other voice" was the sound you´d hear while dying on the dancefloor, going through a quick purgatory and presto: angel choirs!

Now listen to My Other Voice

There is a backwards hi-hat sequence running throughout the whole song, it dazzles the mind and plays with the listeners perception of time. Elements are added one after another: A clumsy bassline, fluttering, slowed down disco percussion, ethereal voices that grow into an otherworldly crescendo that aims to go higher and higher. Shortly before the voices evaporate into thin air there is something like a demented surf guitar which soon turns out to be a vocoderized voice "humming" a half-conscious melody.

At this point in this experimental flow of ascending sounds and descending melodies the humming voice, as if coming from far away instructs us to "Listen to my other voice". Only then does the relative darkness of the track open up to Russel Maels most angelic voice. But his sweet, yearning voice says words that are more of a threat than a consolation: "You´re so independent but that´s gonna change real soon. With my other voice I can destroy this room. I´ll wrap my voice around you and I drag you everywhere. My other voice."

He then yanks the vocoder back on and gets even more sinister and demonic: You think you´re romantic. Well, I´ll whisper in your ear. I´ll be all you hear for years and years and years. You may be deaf to everything, you wont be deaf to me: My other voice..
The last syllables are pitched so high that the voice drifts off into the atmosphere. Slowly, all instruments fade away until only the backwards hi-hat is all that is left.

I can only imagine the effect this must have had on a crowd of drugged up dancers in Studio 54...

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