Sparks were doomed to obscurity from the beginning in their native U.S. Like Oscar Wilde and the turn-of-the-century decadents and dandies who inspired the Mael brothers, scandal both brought them fame and prevented the public from taking them seriously. Vocalist Russell Mael played the rock star with all the flamboyance of a peacock, while songwriter and keyboardist Ron Mael contrasted his brother's excesses with his ascetic scowl and Hitler mustache. The latter's favorite ploy has always been exposing people squirming in insecurity behind screens of wealth, vanity, professionalism and mediocrity.
Sparks enjoyed its first commercial success in the U.K. with 1974's Kimono My House, an album of neo-romanticism meets prog. rock, which reached number four in the U.K. In 1979, after a brief decline in popularity in Europe (and still little notoriety in their native U.S.), the duo called on the production talent of legendary producer Giorgio Moroder for No. 1 In Heaven, a celestial stairway of rapturous melodies heavily greased with irony and black humor, and which would later influence the synth pop of Depeche Mode and Pet Shop Boys. Though in the 1980s and beyond the Maels tended to settle for synth-driven chintz over rock 'n' roll substance, their music still retains the stinging wit that gives it savor. In 2006, the Mael brothers returned with Hello Young Lovers, an album of cheeky operatic prog. rock melodrama.