"Hello Young Lovers" (In the Red)
* * * 1/2
AS startlingly original as was Sparks' previous album, 2004's "Lil' Beethoven," the veteran L.A. duo seemed to paint itself into a corner. How do you follow a work that defied and ridiculed every imaginable convention and limitation of pop music?
"Beethoven" tossed out standard rock instrumentation and verse-bridge-chorus song form in attacking the dumbing-down of culture in general and pop music in particular. "Hello Young Lovers" (in stores Tuesday) ramps everything up with witty, even more densely packed compositions that are more pop arias than songs.
Siblings Ron and Russell Mael rely on heavily orchestrated string and keyboard-laden settings and chorale-like multi-tracking of Russell's elastic voice, accented by jagged guitars and occasional rock drums. Lyrical and musical phrases repeat, sometimes to ridiculous extremes, to illustrate themes about self-destructive attitudes people carry through life.