A calculated (and doomed) attempt to shock.

When last we left them, [a]Sparks[/a] were onstage reeling through the gleefully operatic pop-skronk of their classic ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us’, backed by [a]Faith No More[/a]’s febrile metalisms, evergreen urchins playing mischievously with pop’s shadowy undercarriage for their own perverse pleasures.

So it’d be nice to think that ‘Balls’, their new album, might drip with a similar acerbic malevolence. But no. Sadly, as ‘Balls’ proves, age [I]has[/I] inexplicably withered [a]Sparks[/a]’ bow-legged muse; where once was genre-bending acid eclecticism and inspired wit, Sparks now seem content to dole out tired, tinny electro-pop and unfunny puns.

(you can almost [I]hear[/I] the self-consciously wry grins). A calculated (and doomed) attempt to shock, where once they’d cause hilarious offence with ease.

Evidence of how far [a]Sparks[/a] have fallen can be found in some tracks’ resemblance to the smug comedy techno-pap of 10cc alumni Godley & Creme. Only the nagging, Numan-esque flight-mare of ‘Aeroflot’ and the teasingly louche ‘How To Get Your Ass Kicked’ scrape [a]Sparks[/a]’ previous heights. The rest is autopilot nonsense, the sound of a once sharp blade dulled to the point of inconsequence.