Sparks: Russell Mael (vocals); Ron Mael (keyboards, programming).
Personnel: Dean Menta (guitars); Tammy Glover (drums).
Audio Mixers: Ron Mael; Russell Mael; John Thomas .
Bookended as it is by Russell Mael's wordless chorale vocals that help kick off the opening "Intro" and which recur in the soothing but strange conclusion to the final song, "Likeable," not to mention similar moments throughout the album, it's almost too easy to summarize Exotic Creatures of the Deep as Sparks' most involved tribute to the Beach Boys, late-'60s version. But as with nearly everything the band's ever done, one can't sum up an album quite as simply as that, and Exotic Creatures, if not as completely explosive as Hello Young Lovers at its heights, finds the rude creative health of the Maels still firing on all cylinders. The amalgam of orchestrations, feedback, and a new millennium's electronics evident in recent releases often sounds all the more integrated here, readily heard on the post-one-night-stand scenario lead single "Good Morning." Similarly, multi-part arrangements recur on efforts like "Strange Animal" and the outrageous "(She Got Me) Pregnant." That all said, the other key element to Sparks' continued success -- Ron Mael's catchy melodies and utterly skew-whiff take on humanity and its foibles -- equally holds sway, and if time lends some inevitable familiarity to the tropes, the variations are still strong enough to work wonders. The simmering political discontents that had already popped up in the Maels' 21st century work crystallize with "Let the Monkey Drive," a slam on a certain 43rd president with some of Ron's angriest piano parts, while they tip their hat to a noted disciple with "Lighten Up, Morrissey" (actually meant to be a portrayal of a despairing man whose girlfriend is so obsessed with said singer that their relationship is on the rocks). Compared to Hello Young Lovers, Exotic Creatures does sound a little starker at points, but it's often also subtler and slyer, tempering bombast in favor of sprightly but also uneasy melodies on songs like "The Director Never Yelled 'Cut'." Perhaps the most emblematic song of the whole album is a swaggering electro-glam stomp, at once reminiscent of their early English heyday and perfectly in sync with the post-schaffel pop universe, with a killer vocal performance by Russell topped by his intoning of the song title in the chorus -- "I Can't Believe That You Would Fall for All the Crap in This Song." ~ Ned Raggett
Spin (p.93) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "Russell Mael warbles falsetto witticisms while keyboardist Ron overdubs himself into digitized mini symphonies, sometimes adorned by metal-guitar riffage."
Record Collector (magazine) (p.98) - 4 stars out of 5 -- [A]nother fine example of their crowd-splitting showmanship....[With] the buoyant 'Good Morning' and the rocking and wry 'Lighten Up Morrissey'..."