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The latest press clippings (or net scrapings) about sparkle*jets u.k.

Please email if you have found or written anything not shown here, we'd love to share it!

The most recent articles & reviews will be posted at the top of this list.

 

08/06/04 - Excerpt from: HELLO, CLEVELAND! Angels, Osmonds & Bosoms.

by Rich Kane, Orange County Register

Sparklejets UK were terrific as always, though the big scoop from them wasn’t onstage, but plastic. They’ve just cheekily re-released their classic-in-another-realm 1998 album In, Through and Beyond in a special expanded edition, with all sorts of added features and extra music, and they just put out a new single in which they Slayer-ize the 1972 Osmonds hit "Crazy Horses," which our then-four-year-old selves thought was the greatest song ever. (It’s off the first album we ever owned—the Osmonds go heavy metal, and we’re so not kidding!). We criminally didn’t get "Crazy Horses" this night, but we did get singer/guitarist Susan West banging on a cowbell and a new song, "Love Burn," which may or may not be about herpes—we just haven’t paid close enough attention to the lyrics yet.

 

08/06/04 - It's Not a Bad Week for sparkle*jets u.k.

by Robert Kinsler, Special to the Register

The Orange County band performed before a capacity crowd at Fitzgerald's Irish Pub in Huntington Beach last Sunday as part of a benefit concert for VH1 Save the Music Foundation and will headline at an International Pop Overthrow concert in San Francisco tonight.

The group also released an enhanced CD single (which includes audio tracks and videos featuring the new gem "Love Burn"), as well as a special expanded edition of "In, Through, and Beyond," the band's long out-of-print debut that has been reconstructed with a second disc of bonus material and a 24-page booklet.

"We had people always asking us for this ('In, Through, and Beyond')," said guitarist-singer Michael Simmons. "We were so busy, I never got around to this."

Sparkle*Jets U.K. is busier than ever, but the group still found time to complete the ambitious two-disc reissue of "In, Through, and Beyond" before performing at sold-out shows as part of International Pop Overthrow.

"The second disc is filled with demos and alternate takes," bassist Jamie Knight said of the 36-track collection. Each CD is also numbered and autographed by the members of the band.

Knight, who is the commercial recording arts director at the Academy for the Performing Arts in Huntington Beach, said teaching students about the history and styles of rock music has helped him and Simmons (also an instructor in the program) keep up with influences that undoubtedly blend in with the Sparkle*Jets U.K.'s intelligent power-pop sound.

Indeed, West noted that several of the band's biggest fans are teens who heard their parents playing a Sparkle*Jets U.K. compact disc.

"Kids end up stealing the music from their parents," Simmons said. The band has a rare ability to appeal to several generations with a winning combination of modern rock sonic firepower, melodic choruses and catchy songwriting.

"Sometimes it feels like nobody is paying attention (to the band)," Simmons admitted. "I have the feeling it's turning around."

Added Knight: "People from around the world contact us now. Through our site and CD Baby (www.cdbaby.com), we get emails from Spain, Japan, England and around the U.S."

It has been the overwhelming support of fans attending the band's shows in Orange County, as well as far-flung concerts in Chicago and New York, that is helping propel Sparkle*Jets U.K. to the next level.

"A big cup of Starbucks coffee helps, too," West said, referring to the band juggling day job work schedules with concert dates and recording sessions.

A three-disc set celebrating this summer's International Pop Overthrow festivals in Southern and Northern California has just been released, and Sparkle*Jets U.K.'s "Love Burn" is included on that collection as well.

That CD is available through Not Lame Recording Co. (www.notlame.com) and also includes songs from artists such as Jason Falkner, Owsley, Blue Ash and Tommy Keene.


06/04/04 - Review of Teenage Fanclub Tribute Album in Orange County Register

by Robert Kinsler

When 1990s rock is discussed, Nirvana, Radiohead and Pearl Jam are usually among the exemplars. However, many of today's up-and-comers cite the influence of Teenage Fanclub. "What a Concept!: A Salute to Teenage Fanclub" features two dozen of the band's songs revisited by modern-day artists inspired by the seminal musical outfit - affectionately known by fans as the Fannies.

Equally impressive is that several of Orange County's best-known bands are included on the ambitious tribute to the Glasgow, Scotland, group that blended strong songwriting, aggressive guitar work and stunning vocal harmonies.

"Receiver guitarist-lead vocalist Ken West produced the CD and was the perfect man for the job, since he's been a Teenage Fanclub nut for ages," said John Borack, a Fountain Valley resident who plays drums in Receiver. "I've personally always dug a lot of the Fannies' tunes, and it was great to cover 'What You Do to Me,' which has always been one of my favorites of theirs."

In preparing the CD, West only invited artists who have been influenced by Teenage Fanclub.

"Teenage Fanclub has been one of my favorite bands since the early '90s and as a musician, probably the biggest influence on my own music," West said. "I've always thought that there was something very simple yet intriguing about their music. The contrast in songs between the three different songwriters in the band also make them very unique."

West wasn't originally going to have his own band record "What You Do to Me," but a last-minute change in the disc's lineup led to that move.

"Initially, the Waking Hours were on board to do 'What You Do to Me,' but due to some scheduling conflicts they couldn't record it. At that time Receiver was set to do 'Alcoholiday,' and about the same time Dave Gibbs from the Gigolo Aunts hinted that he wanted to do 'Alcoholiday.' So we ended up doing 'What You Do to Me.'"

In addition to Receiver's dazzling "What You Do to Me," Orange County's Sparkle*Jets U.K. cover "I Don't Want Control of You," while Walter Clevenger & the Dairy Kings deliver a fitting "About You," enhanced by some George Harrison-styled slide guitar.

Acclaimed bands such as Redd Kross, Chewy Marble, the Andersons and aforementioned Gigolo Aunts add critical weight to the 24-song set, released by Colorado-based Not Lame Records in April.

"Receiver recorded 'What You Do to Me' with Mike Simmons (Sparkle*Jets U.K.) at Crab Apple West Studios here in O.C. It's always a blast recording with Mike; he's one of the most talented producers and musicians I've ever met, and he did his usual great job on our cut," Borack said.

Producing Receiver's "What You Do to Me" was a thrill for Simmons, who fell in love with that track before it was even commercially available.

"The moment I saw and heard Norman Blake (one of three singer-songwriters in Teenage Fanclub), I knew something really special was going on there. ... I saw them at the Whiskey, then the next night at the Jabberjaw, and even recorded 'What You Do To Me' on my four-track from memory before the record (1991's 'Bandwagonesque') was in the stores. They were fantastic," Simmons said.

When Clevenger learned that a full-length tribute to Teenage Fanclub was in the works, he hoped to record one of the tracks off "Grand Prix," his favorite album by the band.

"When I saw that the opening track, 'About You,' wasn't spoken for, I jumped on it. We were one of the last bands to sign on to the project, so we were pretty fortunate to have a great song to do," Clevenger said.

Because Sparkle*Jets U.K. were one of the first groups invited to submit a track for "What a Concept!: A Salute to Teenage Fanclub," Simmons chose his favorite, "I Don't Want Control of You," which he describes as a sweet and simple love song that can bring him to tears.

"I don't know if yet another tribute record could make a splash, but if this gets some people curious to investigate their work, it will be worth it. The Fannies rule. If not the best band of the '90s, they're in the Top 5 at least," Simmons said before correcting himself. "OK, Top 3."

 

06/20/03 - SJUK voted one of the GREATEST OC BANDS OF ALL TIME by OC WEEKLY!

Vol. 8, No. 42 - The 129 Best OC Bands Ever!

Name the first band to play the Anaheim House of Blues.* What OC grunge-era rockers were once lamely ignored by pool-playing celebrity audience members Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder? Did you know that a late Anaheim singer-songwriter starred in an unreleased movie with O.J. Simpson? Find answers to these and hundreds of other questions no one ever bothered to ask in our Incomplete Guide to Orange County Music.

52. Sparklejets UK

A band whose players apparently never felt the need to invest in an FM radio whilst growing up, Sparklejets UK specialize in clever hooks, bouncy songs and all-around good times—not counting the occasional revenge fantasy lyric about the boyfriend who just dumped you and then gets killed in a fiery Pinto collision. They’re a pop band, but not "pop" as defined by the sad minions whose ears have been rendered tone deaf by the teenage swill oozing out from KIIS-FM. They’re power-pop, baby—a little Beatles, a bite of Big Star, some generous quarts of the Bay City Rollers, a couple scoops of Jonathan Richman, a hunk of Brian Wilson, and, when they really cut loose . . . Cheap Trick! Would you believe their (bass) guitar player is a mild-mannered Fountain Valley High librarian? And let this be forever known: *they were the first band to ever grace the stage of the Anaheim House of Blues—we were there, we know it’s true. Seek out the Sparklejets wherever you can, for they’re truly a supersecret treasure.

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04/15/04 - REVIEW of Bamboo Lounge from In Music We Trust

by Gary "Pig" Gold

Never let it be said of these Kings and Queen of Orange County Cali-Pop that they don't give Great Big Value for your entertainment buck. Coz herein, besides the band's Best Album Ever, sits one big ROM's-worth of bonus attractions (featuring videos, live tracks, lyrics, plenty-o-Sparkle*pix too). And, if you're lucky like me, you may even find a tiny li'l tiki umbrella meticulously stuffed into the jewel case!

And, um-- Oh Yeah! The MUSIC! Head Jets Michael Simmons and Susan West swiftly serve up a solid fourteen angst-fueled shots of love longed for then usually lost ("Real Nice Time," already covered by no less than their good pals The Masticators, says it almost all best, though I'm also especially partial to the line "You say you need some Pine-Solª to clean your heart" from Susan's Partridge-ready rockasilly romp "Consult Your Physician"). "Sorry" offers yet more classic pop balladry from the mighty Simmons pen (complete with a wholly-"Sunflower"-worthy B.Boy intro), though Ms. West's "A Nice One" is remarkably gentle in a moody Maria Muldaur / Melanie-even kinda way.

Meanwhile, "They Shoot Square Dancers" could so easily revive those Wilson sisters' ailing Heart, and the title track quite conversely conjures the papaya'd ghost of none less than Los Wondermintitos (--which reminds me to remind you to keep an ear well peeled for the sly Tijuana trumpetry which Probyn Gregory throws throughout the B. Lounge!)

Go ahead and slap some darn label like "retro," "alternative," or even (Yikes!) "power pop" atop this music if you must; those in the know will simply tilt a cool tall one, kick right back, and let the S.Jets pour a little sugar on 'em. You game?

03/06/03 - INTERVIEW with Susan from OC Metro

by Jennifer Corday

Frantic. Loud. Fun. Educational? Not usually in the list of adjectives to describe a rock band with a record deal but the Sparkle Jets U.K. are not your average band. Says singer Susan West, "The strangest thing has happened to us…" A humble and honest reaction to the natural turn of events that has fueled the Sparkle Jets into the hearts of the next generation. The members of the band have started a program for teens called The Loud Music Club, which has helped The Sparkle Jets gain popularity and, even more importantly, enabled them to act as educators, role models, and curators for the next generation of musicians. The band has formed a formidable alliance with Smile Records, who are releasing their second album, the versatile & multi-faceted "Bamboo Lounge," which has already attracted huge praises from the press and fans alike since it's underground pre-release last summer. From high school campuses to huge pop festivals and Chinese food restaurants, Sparkle Jets are inventing new ways to perform, and inspiring a whole new generation of music lovers to forget the rules, follow their hearts, and turn up the volume.

West explains, "Our bass player is a librarian at Fountain Valley High School and Ocean View High School, and he started the Loud Music Club on both campuses, where students meet and learn how to start a band." The bass player, Jamie Knight, is not just a librarian; he was elected Educator of the Year at Fountain Valley High School last year, as voted on by the administrators, teachers and students. Obviously well liked and respected by students and staff alike, Mr. Knight's program has proved to be both fun and educational. "Jaime has these meetings at lunch," says West, "where the kids will meet and talk and he'll help them form their own band. To them, it seems like such an impossible task, but we show them they can do it. He'll have guest speakers, teach them about networking, or how to book little shows. They learn aspects of the business, and then eventually compete in a school-wide Battle of the Bands."

To compete in the battle, high school bands are asked to perform a fifteen-minute set consisting of three original tunes and one cover song, which falls under a theme. West explains, "For example, they have to learn something from the 60's or the 70s. This next one is going to be a soul review, something that will incorporate the horns and the drum section." According to West, the school is totally involved now, and they are trying to get each department of the school involved. Even the parents are getting excited. Prior to the event, as a morale booster and an inspiration, the SJUK will play noon time concerts in the quad, where they will perform and then speak to the students. "We give the kids a pep talk and say you know you can do this-- not everyone has to be able to dance, just pick up an instrument! We think this is so good for the kids, for their confidence-- they don't understand that they can do anything!" With West's charisma and encouragement, all obstacles do seem surmountable, and even kids without instruments, or very little talent begin to get involved when they have encouragement and support from one another. "We have bands come together and we build a back line. Kids share instruments, amps, and drum sets, so the evening runs smoothly. A pro music company provides all the PA stuff. The Sparkle Jets usually perform, along with another up-and-coming band we invite, and then the kids play for the rest of the evening. None of them have played a big show before so it's super exciting."

Even more super exciting is that for the first time this year, they are planning a district-wide Battle of the Bands show at The Grove Theatre in Anaheim on June 1st. This notable venue has a 1200 seat capacity, state-of-the-art sound and lighting, and is usually host to big name major label acts like Blondie and Pat Benatar. Though still in the planning stages, SJUK hope that The Grove will host the best of the best high school bands in the Huntington Beach Union School District. Competing schools are Marina, Oceanview, Fountain Valley, and the magnet school. Each campus will have its own battle, and the winners will compete at The Grove in June. Big sponsors have jumped on board the show at The Grove, including Norm Reeves Honda with more to be announced.

Bringing with them a passion for the last thirty years of amazing pop music, the Sparkle Jets set out to boil it all down to its core: pure blissful fun with an eternally youthful attack. They have played together for years and have the kind of chemistry that only comes from years of experience performing on stage together. West and Knight live together in Orange, and guitarist Mike Simmons has a recording studio in Fullerton, which they share with actor-musician Robbie Rist, who played Cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch and was the voice of Michaelangelo on the Ninja Turtles. West glows, "It's a tri level and the whole bottom level is our studio. We combined our equipment with Robbie-- it's my disco ball, and Robbie's computer." Simmons also owns and operates a lot of the gear, and has been called "the ultimate consumer" by the band, someone who has to have the latest gadget and the newest cheese puff. Part computer geek, part guitar god, Simmons can be found buried amongst ceiling-high piles of CD's and gadgets, recording and archiving nearly everything he ever experiences, just in case.

Though the Sparkle Jets name was inspired by the Gretsch guitar, the band actually plays matching sparkly Fender guitars, which they purchased together with their 1999 tax return money. The oh-so-eighties U.K. tag was added to show their wacky sense of humor, and ruffle some feathers in the L.A. pop hotbed. New fans are always approaching the band with questions about the U.K. tag, and the strange absence of an overseas accent. "People say, 'Gosh you don't seem to have an accent,' and we say 'Of course not, we're from Orange County!'"

As a band that believes strongly in the value of networking, the Sparkle Jets' Orange County alliances paid off in their 2000 release of a coup-de-gras tribute album to themselves, featuring twenty other bands. West explains, "We put together an e-mail and sent it out to our friends and asked if they would be interested in doing one of our songs. Within a few days, everyone had responded and all of our songs were gone! Two bands actually wrote songs about us. It was a multi-media CD, pretty sophisticated." Prior to that, their critically acclaimed debut "In, Through, and Beyond" was released at the end of 1998. Though out of print now, SJUK is negotiating with a Japanese Company who wants to license and re-release the album in the states. The album cover, designed to look like a Japanese import, will actually be a Japanese import if the deal goes through. Irony at work. SJUK have also been featured on "Right To Chews - Bubblegum Classics Revisited" compilation from Not Lame Records, performing a Jackson 5 cover of "I Want You Back," and on a Jeff Lynne ELO tribute compilation, "Lynne Me Your Ears," for their single "Above The Clouds." (www.notlame.com)

 

12/02 - REVIEW of Bamboo Lounge from The Big Takeover magazine, issue #51

by Greg Weeks

This "something-for-everybody" sophomore effort by the ironically-monikered sparkle*jets u.k. (this pop quartet actually hail from merry ol' suburban Orange County, CA) seems to draw from a wide assortment of AOR/Top 40 influences, circa 1980 (Missing Persons, Romeo Void, Blondie, Kiss, Heart, Hall & Oats, Pat Benatar), as well as modern-day contempo pop (Splitsville, Wondermints, Redd Kross). Guitarist/vocalist Michael Simmons takes charge on most of the melodic power pop ("She May Be Nice," "So Gone," "Nobody's Girl) and harmonic sunshine pop ("Sorry," Beautiful Girl"). Raven-haired dynamo Susan West, meanwhile, brazenly knocks out lead vocals for a sparkling array of styles, including bass-heavy punk-pop ("Monster"), snotty new wave ("Real Nice Time"), revved-up rockabilly pop ("Consult Your Physician"), spasmodic neo-metal ("Hate Your Hair"), and a daddy's little girl lullaby ("A Nice One"). In the CD-rom section of this ultra-enhanced digital wonder you'll find 12 mp3's of live performances from last year's IPO, 15 mostly-demo bonus tracks, a video, downloadable artwork, lyrics and other SJUK miscellany.

 

12/02 - REVIEW of I Love sparkle*jets u.k. from The Big Takeover magazine, issue #51

by Greg Weeks

Let us now turn our attention to a tribute to Orange County's much-loved sparkle*jets u.k. The band invited their friends' bands to participate, and unlike a lot of various artist trib-comps, this one feels something like a musical version of a family-and-friends get-together, one where everyone's welcome to stop by with a sixer and a smile (an early name for the band, by the way, was Happy Birthday!). The CD kicks off with IPO host David Bash bidding a hearty "Welcome" before a wide assortment of groups and solo artists - including The Sugarplastic, Mike Randle (of Baby Lemonade), Jeremy, The Masticators, The Piper Downs, Robbie Rist's Wonderboy, and others - sun riot through this fun lovin' foursome from Fullerton's back catalog. Pop this sucker in your computer and you'll see it's also a multi-media-enhanced CD-ROM with two hours of music (mp3's of SJUK's original versions), a Friar's Club-style "roast" by The Andersons, sound clips, interviews, text, photos, links to every bands' website and five-second video clip of Bash belly dancing.

 

 

10/04/02 - REVIEW of "Right to Chews - Bubblegum Classics Revisited" from the Orange County Register

by Robert Kinsler, Special to the Register

Various Artists "Right To Chews: Bubblegum Classics Revisited" (Not Lame) - There is something undeniably fun about listening to tuneful covers of tracks first popularized by the likes of 1910 Fruitgum Company, the Flying Machine, Edison Lighthouse and Sweet in the 1960s and '70s.

So it goes for those who pick up a copy of "Right To Chews: Bubblegum Classics Revisited," a strong collection produced by Fountain Valley's John M. Borack and featuring several leaders from Orange County's burgeoning pop-rock scene among the ranks of artists on the ambitious 25-track disc.

Reworkings of melodic gems include everything from a punchy "Goody Goody Gumdrops," courtesy of Receiver, to a mostly faithful take of "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)."

Costa Mesa's Walter Clevenger & the Dairy Kings deliver Music Explosion's "Little Bit O' Soul," which is actually given a slight country Western feel, recalling how the early Beatles were able to rework material by the likes of Buck Owens.

And O.C.'s sparkle*jets u.k. have no trouble infusing a strong dose of Motown soul into a cover of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" that is one of many highlights on the CD.



08/10/02 - "Interesting" Review of Bamboo Lounge from a Japanese Website

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08/05/02 - REVIEW of "Right to Chews - Bubblegum Classics Revisited" from Fufkin.com

by Mike Bennett

Slowly but surely, bubblegum is getting more respect. For years, there has been an ironic appreciation of the simplistic ditties that were the product of Kasenatz and Katz, Don Kirshner's stable of songwriters, Andy Kim and other folks whose surnames did not begin with a ‘K'. If you're an adult, there will probably always be a need to keep a certain intellectual distance from bubblegum tunes – irony has its place. But more and more smart pop fans are appreciating dumb fun set to some of the most insanely catchy music ever composed – letting the inner child rule the ears for a while. And really, take out some blitzkriegs and cretins and weren't a lot of early Ramones songs really just rocking bubblegum? Some of the fuzztoned-to-death songs of Outrageous Cherry, once you strip away the reverb, could have been penned by Tommy Roe or Jeff Barry. In some circles, Steve Miller was a cool post-psych artist jamming with Boz Scaggs in the Bay Area. To me, he created the first blues rock bubblegum ("Take the Money and Run" anyone?), mutating into pure bubblebliss ("Abracadabra" and the awesome, but massive flop, "Bongo Bongo").

My point is, a tribute to classic bubblegum tunes is an idea whose time has come. This disc does it right. Combining a cadre of great pop artists with a variety of tunes, mixing gigantic hits with somewhat forgotten tracks from the past, and topped off by an awesome album cover (with cover model Miss Mellie of PurrBox – sorry fellas, she's married!), the album is a labor of puppy love.

One thing that is not greatly in evidence is major reinvention. Often a staple of tribute discs, I think the artists here wisely realized that the simplistic songs did not offer a load of opportunities for messing around. Instead, the general focus was on inspired performances. The greatest chance was taken by The Beatifics, on their version of The Clique's (and later R.E.M.'s) "Superman". Chris Dorn slows it down into more of a psych-pop tune, which gives a bit more of an edge to the song, the jealous lover sounding more jealous and less lovable.
On an album that contains nary a weak performance, a few tracks are particular standouts. Doug Powell applies his marvelous voice to the Partridge Family's "I Woke Up in Love This Morning". He begins the song delicately, just the voice. Then he kicks it in, and adds layers of guitars – the song has a bit more spunk than the original. He uses a variety of arrangement tricks in the verses to give the song an added urgency. Spectacular. Yet that might not be the best singing on the disc – I think I'd have to pin that medal on Susan West's jacket. The sassy Sparkle * Jet U.K.er (I'd say sassiest, but Mike Simmons can be pretty sassy) brings that special strong woman with girly cuteness thing that she does so well and her awesome singing power on the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back." Every time I listen to this, I just nod my head in awe.

Some versions are so obvious, they just had to be done. Japanese bubblepoppers The Oranges have always sounded like they sang clad in tartan (polyester tartan, of course), so their hoppin' take of The Bay City Rollers' "Saturday Night" is as good as it should be. Likewise, Chris Von Sneidern, who has a knack for picking tribute songs that fit perfectly with his style, gives a great reading of "Smile a Little Smile for Me", sifting out some of the sugar without losing any of the sweetness.

Other highlights amongst the highlights include Walter Clevenger and the Dairy Kings' robust treatment of "Little Bit O' Soul" (The Music Explosion), Teen Machine tearing up Ohio Express' "Yummy Yummy Yummy", Mary Kate O'Neil doing "Get Down", the Gilbert O'Sullivan track that was made for a man, but the ladies like it too, Lolas resurrect an Archies obscurity, with lyrics that reflect the true Zen of Jughead "Feelin' So Good (S.K.O.O.B.Y. D.O.O.)", and Michael Carpenter showing that Australians could relate to the quintessential ravages of puberty as well as us Yanks, warmly rendering The Brady Bunch's "Time to Change". The Osmonds' "Down by the Lazy River" is a true raver and every member of Wonderboy takes a verse. Jeremy, Ed James and Todd Borsch of The Ringles got together as Joyride for my favorite bubble entendre, "1, 2, 3, Red Light" (a 1910 Fruitgum Company hit) – the sunny melody can't hide the seething adolescent frustration – every night the singer's girl just won't put out.

There's tons more fun here – Cliff Hillis, The Rubinoos, Receiver, Einstein's Sister, Beagle, The Andersons!, Linus Of Hollywood, Mitch Easter and so on. This marks the second awesome tribute put together by writer John Borack (drummer for Receiver and The Popdudes), right on the heels of the excellent Shoe Fetish comp. Borack also pens great liner notes – a short piece on the general joys of ‘gum and a track-by-track guide. This ranks right up there with the best tributes I've heard and it's fun for the whole family.

 

08/02 - REVIEW of Bamboo Lounge from SLUG MAGAZINE (Salt Lake Underground)

by Skaterized

From the brightly jangling guitars to Susan West’s exuberant vocals to the lyric sheet as drink menu, there hasn’t been a pop rock album that said “party” as heartily as this for a long time. They should tour with Cheap Trick. Even the “UK” tag says “we rock.” This must be the new millennium’s answer to retro bubblegum acts like Redd Kross. The jewel case even contains a mini umbrella in the spine that you will find yourself trying to crack open and use in your cocktails along with this musical mood enhancer. My album of the summer!

07/02 - REVIEW of Bamboo Lounge from AltarNative.com

by Omar Perez

Just when you think happy, feel-good music has to make you either plunge your head into the nearest toilet or reach for the sharpest kitchen knife, along comes SoCal’s Sparkle* Jets U.K., which reminds us that it’s OK to have fun with your music, to tap your toes to bouncy pop hooks and that one shouldn’t take the whole damn thing so seriously. Throughout the band’s sophomore effort, airy harmonies lift colorful pop tunes that are as substantial as they are sugary. On “A Nice One,” for example, vocalist Susan West simply wants to write a pretty, nice song, declaring her intentions over keyboards that would make whoever wrote the jingle for Mr. Rogers proud. On the other side of the coin, “Consult your Physician” throws down Rockabilly-inspired riffs and blends then with uptempo drums, while the summer breeze of “Beautiful Girl” lounges on a beach-like ambience, with jazzy drums and contemporary, easy-going guitars and flutes. “When I’m feeling tired/a little said and uninspired/I do just what my best friend tells me” vents co-vocalist Michael Simmons on the Monkees-like “It’s Gotta Happen.” Visiting Bamboo Lounge is one suggestion. --- Omar Perez

 

07/14/02 - REVIEW of Bamboo Lounge from POPISM.ORG

by Goran Obradovic

Once upon a time, back in the mid sixties, being from Britain was good enough to make a pop band an interesting one in America. Today, being from L.A. is just as good, especially if the band belongs to the town's mighty power-pop scene. Sparkle Jets have everything you need from a band, but they've still added the "UK", just in case I guess. With the two headed pop-monster personality, split between the riot grrrl tension and melodic nirvana, it could've been any country in the world behind their name. Some of this "coctail's" compoment parts are "She may be nice", made of all the power-pop defining elements : guitars that rock, melodies that pop, vocal harmonies and stop/start rhythms that will never let you stand still, "Sorry", reminding us of the 'Fanclub at their most gentle, and the infectious "So gone", that actually won't ever be gone from the back of your mind from the moment you first hear it, just like "It's gotta happen ", a worldwide hit that never was (there's still a chance ...) which should be blasting from the speakers all around the globe. There's also a nice little "trackarach" called "Beautiful girl", full of exotic instruments like the loungy organ, flute, jazzy guitar or a horn, conjuring up the album title, "Nobody's girl", a late-Beatle work-out, done in a super commercial, almost Robbie Williamsy way, with a big Falkner-under-pressure guitar solo (maybe it's a good idea for Mike Simmons to get some extra-money ?!) , and then there's also "Consult your psychician", which comes out like Susan West fronting the Stray Cats with a bit fuller sound.
Since the 'Jets already have a "tribute" album behind them, here's some more homework for their colegues.

 

07/04/02 - REVIEW of Bamboo Lounge from Mean Street Magazine

by Diana Nguyen

The world is good. And I am convinced of this, for starters, because the postman just delivered a newspaper-wrapped shirt box stuffed full of candy, confetti, and musical paraphernalia, the likes of which I haven’t seen in over two years. What this means, of course, is that SPARKLE*JETS U.K. have released another full-length album. Please note, my faithful readers, that Bamboo Lounge, the fourteen-track follow-up the SJUK’s 1998 debut, In, Through, and Beyond, is the customized, top-of-the-line, fully-loaded, stacked and strapped Cadillac Escalade of all pop albums. Sure, they have their signature whimsically-delivered, positively bursting sassy, straight-ahead pop songs “She May Be Nice” and “Hate Your Hair” could pick up a party in a graveyard and “A Nice One” is especially darling – but it is the obsessive maintenance of the album’s theme and special multimedia features of the record that really kick the horse in the patoot.

Slip the CD into your computer and suddenly you, the listener, have entered the actual multimedia bamboo lounge (you absolutely must try this out yourself to get a complete grasp of the novelty): complete with drink recipes scribbled on tiki matchbooks, bamboo frames, twelve extra live tracks, lyrics, photos, bonus tracks, a video, more bamboo, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. It must have taken the band every bit of the last four years just to conceptualize this masterpiece. Or at
least two years to stick little paper umbrellas into the spine of every single CD case (oh yes, a paper umbrella in each one, I kid you not).

 

06/12/02 - REVIEW of Bamboo Lounge from The Dead Flowers Monthly Music Pics

by Gary "Pig" Gold

Never let it be said of these Kings and Queen of Orange County Cali-Pop that they don't give great big value for your entertainment buck. Coz herein, besides the band's best album ever, sits one big ROM's-worth of bonus attractions (featuring videos, live tracks, lyrics, plenty-o-Sparkle*pix too). And, if you're lucky like me, you may even find a tiny li'l tiki umbrella meticulously stuffed into the jewel case as well! And, um... Oh Yeah! The MUSIC! Head Jets Michael Simmons and Susan West swiftly serve up a solid fourteen angst-fueled shots of love longed for then usually lost ("Real Nice Time," already covered by no less than their good pals The Masticators, says it almost all best, though I'm also especially partial to the line "You say you need some Pine-Sol to clean your heart" from Susan's Partridge-ready rockasilly romp "Consult Your Physician"). "Sorry" offers yet more classic pop balladry from the mighty Simmons pen (complete with a wholly-Sunflower-worthy B.Boy intro), though Ms. West's "A Nice One" is remarkably gentle in a moody Maria Muldaur / Melanie-even kinda way. Meanwhile, "They Shoot Square Dancers" could so easily revive those Wilson sisters' ailing Heart, and the title track quite conversely conjures the papaya'd ghost of none less than Los Wondermintitos (...which reminds me to remind you to keep an ear well peeled for the sly Tijuana trumpetry which Probyn Gregory throws throughout the B. Lounge!). Go ahead and slap some darn label like "retro," "alternative," or even (Yikes!) "power pop" atop this music if you must; those in the know will simply tilt a cool tall one, kick right back, and let the S.Jets pour a little sugar on 'em. You game?

 

05/24/02 - REVIEW of Bamboo Lounge from Ink19.com

by Vanessa Bormann

If there were awards for most creative jacket theme, Sparkle*Jets U.K. would cream any competition. With the names of the people who contributed what to each song laid out like recipes, the song titles names of drinks and the length of the songs with dollar signs acting as prices, this group is muy creativo from the get-go. As far as the music goes, "Monster" is a girl anthem with a twist of mint ($3.14), the song we could all use is "Sorry" (a pricey $4.00), the swingy "Consult You Physician" ($3.03), a yummy "Beautiful Girl" ($3.14), the rhythmic and sad "Nobody's Girl" ("She says she's nobody's girl.../wish I was nobody" -- $3.41), the retro "They Shoot Square Dancers, Don't They?" ($3.06), and the best deal around, "Bamboo Lounge" at a mere $1.32. Don't leave without taking up the great shooter special -- "Hate Your Hair," only $.42 each! Wow, what a great lounge, they even serve drink umbrellas. For the new generation of B-52's fans, your savior has arrived. Double your pleasure with the Sparkle*Jets tribute album, I Love Sparkle*Jets U.K. Have some Island Records "power pop" for an appetizer and all the drinks on the menu will go excellent with some "Rock Lobster."

 

04/12/02 - REVIEW of Bamboo Lounge from FWWeekly (fort worth, TX)

by Adam Woodyard

About halfway through the debut disc from Sparkle*Jets U.K., the non-MTV-watching listener is lulled into a false sense of security, as if this c.d. were made specifically for him, what with all the toe-tapping, happy/anti-nihilistic little tracks like "It's Gotta Happen" and "Hate Your Hair." Let's be honest, the whole c.d. is a lot of fun, pop music, not for the 18-24 demographic but for the one slightly older. But what starts out as a harmless offering for the adult-contemporary set fools you, musically and lyrically walking the fine line between mainstream country and the handiwork of the next "It" band likely to appear on a side stage at Warped Tour '03. SJUK communicates a lot of good ideas here, but it's just hard to tell who they think they're talking to.

Where, then, can a band such as SJUK find a niche? Likely not with the MTV crowd; the mixed-drink recipes interspersed throughout the pages of lyrics in the c.d. jacket are obvious attempts at shutting out the under-21 folk. And not with the older crowd, because . . . well, why not with the older crowd? Since when is adult contemporary all Kenny G. and Michael Bolton? People born before Nixon took office could use a shot in the arm just as much as the rest of us. The lyrics waver between the terribly clever ("A Nice One," "They Shoot Square Dancers, Don't They?") and the terribly not (sample lyric: "When I'm out of touch / My contributions to society don't mean much / I listen to what my best friend tells me / And everything's all right"). The hooks are catchy and the guitar solos competent, and nothing's ever too, too loud. Vocalist Susan West seems to be having a lot more fun (and sounding more like a rock star) than alternate vocalist Michael Simmons, but just like any other good list of mixed drinks, there's something here for everyone. If only the Warped people can find these guys before CMT does, there's hope for us all.

04/12/02 - REVIEW of Bamboo Lounge Record Release Party Show from Sunset Strip Radio.com

sparkle*jets u.k. In tune with the Tiki.

by Dan Kimpel

Sparkle*jets u.k
@ Spaceland

The Players:
Susan West -- guitar, vocals
Michael Simmons -- guitar, vocals, keyboards
Jamie Knight -- bass
Larry Doran -- drums
Rob Tucker -- keyboards
Joel Valder -- percussion


It was the CD release party for Sparkle*jets u.k.'s new album, "Bamboo Lounge." And as the lights dimmed and the band was preparing to play, a voice from out of nowhere filled the room. It could have been the voice of Don Ho himself. The voice was deep, resonant and decidedly Polynesian:

"Wahine Makune Mana, Ladies and Gentlemen, A small reminder before entering the Tiki Room. We ask you to refrain from smoking inside, and please, no flash bulbs. Our performers are temperamental and easily upset. Thank you for your cooperation. And now ladies & gentlemen, come with us, to a world of joyous songs and wondrous miracles."

GONG! And the music began.

The set opened with a short Hawaiian instrumental, a soft tropical incantation to start the show, complete with bird calls, marimba, and pulsing tom-toms. The band members were garbed appropriately -- Hawaiian shirts and flower leis. As the music played the bartender dispensed fruity pink mai tai's adorned with plastic swizzle-stick umbrellas. It was Waikiki kitsch and everyone -- fans and band alike -- seemed to enjoy the illusion. With the second song, the band returned to it's standard and well accepted repertoire of guitar pop-rock.

Sparkle*jets u.k. (the u.k. has nothing to do with the roots of these southern Californians) is a band with two strong vocalists and an array of talented, fun loving back-ups. Under the command of Michael Simmons - a facile, Southern-influenced guitarist -- Sparkle*jets u.k. meld elements of Brit-influenced power pop with tough American bar band roots. When vocalist Susan West takes over the group plays equally hard, but adds a layer of quirkiness and whimsy to the mix.

No matter who is singing, bassist Jamie Knight just never lets up. His propulsive in-your-face stylings ignited the set's stand out tracks, "Nobodies Girl," and "Beautiful Girl," the latter reminiscent of an old Zombies track from the heady days of vinyl. To the delight of the fans, West wailed along with the wall of sound in "Real Nice Time." Then, with only a keyboard behind her, she sang the memorable "Nice One":

"...don't you know it's smog that makes the sky look pretty
It's hunger that makes your food taste good
And you don't know you're happy
Until you're sad"

From their tongue-in-cheek tropical haberdashery to their silver metal flake guitars, Sparkle*jets u.k. are refreshing alternative - a mix of humor and harmonics. Simmons and West have very different on-stage vocal styles, and consequently the band sounds different depending on who is singing. This is not always a bad thing, and even gives an added dimension to the performances.

By the set's closer, "Good Morning World," one could almost visualize Mary Tyler Moore tossing her hat high into the sky. And that's the charm of Sparkle*jets u.k.: for all of their goofy accouterments there's real musicianship here -- eminently singable songs and solid playing. Pour up some garishly-colored cocktails, toss in an umbrella, and celebrate! The Tiki Bar is open and the band is revving up.

 

 

04/05/02 - REVIEW of Bamboo Lounge from Pop Matters

by Jason Damas

One of the most important, yet one of the most oft-forgotten, details of being a pop band is that pop music is essentially fun. This is especially lost on the myriad guitar-pop revivalists who try to recreate every note of their favorite Badfinger and Raspberries records. They know craft, but they sometimes forget why they do it. Why pop music is free of the weight and seriousness of much of its rocking kin.

Los Angeles-based Sparkle*jets u.k. (get it? They're not really from the UK) is one of the most talked-about, best, and most innovative guitar pop bands on the L.A. scene at the moment, and one of the main reasons why is their sense of sheer, unadulterated fun.

The Sparkle*jets vocalists Michael Simmons and Susan West are two drastically different front persons. Simmons' vocals are plain, clean, more typical power-pop fodder, and provide an ideal centerpiece for some of the band's more traditional moments. By contrast, West is somewhat of a loose cannon, channeling the ghosts of Heart's Ann and Nancy Wilson (which is not an easy task, since they're not dead) to scream and shreik through every track. And just when you think you've got her pinned down, at the end of the disc she tosses out the cutesy "A Nice One", a song more precious and adorable than Hello Kitty. And once the Sparkle*jets even organized a tribute album to themselves and invited their friends to cover their songs, just for the hell of it. This all makes Bamboo Lounge, the band's second album proper (not counting the tribute), a wildly disparate listen, careening in a bunch of musical directions but always maintaining a cheeky sense of humor and fun.

Over the course of fourteen tracks, the Sparkle*jets pull bits and pieces of '70s junk culture-from the tiki lounge-inspired cover art and album title to musical lifts from the gaudier side of '70s hard rock-into one single, coherent rock 'n' roll album. They don't shy away from a few blatant musical lifts: "She May Be Nice" and "Beautiful Girl" each take large bits of melody from Kiss's "Rock and Roll All Nite" and Elvis Costello's "Alison", respectively. But that's part of the charm: while they incorporate bits of hard rock inspired by Kiss and Heart and pop from sources as far and wide as Elvis Costello and Jackson Browne, the Sparkle*jets create an alternate take of the '70s where there was no cool and uncool, no prog-rock or hard rock or punk. There was just rock.

So the Susan West songs-raging rockers like "Real Nice Time" and the hilarious, sneering "They Shoot Square Dancers, Don't They?" are the meat, potatoes, and gimmick: because her voice and her attitude are what distinguish the Sparkle*jets from their peers. But Mike Simmons's tracks, from the straightforward rock of "She May Be Nice" to the power-ballad "Sorry", manage to inject some life into power-pop cliches without abandoning that good old catchy chorus. Bamboo Lounge is geek rock at its finest, because it's (us) geeks who'll get the musical references and get the jokes. This is an album for everyone who grew up in a house with fake wood paneling and orange shag carpeting, for everyone who sat around and played Atari in a finished suburban basement. In short, for everyone who experienced some degree of '70s culture but who never knew or cared what about it was cool.

 

04/01/02 - QUICK REVIEW of Bamboo Lounge from the New York Power Pop Page

by Sherman Boim

Sparklejets u.k. are not from Great Britain, that's part of the humorous presentation of this diverse sounding band. When you buy the album "Bamboo Lounge" you get a PACKAGE - a small umbrella to insert in your drink, great artwork, lots of multi-media computer goodies as well. But this should not divert attention from the enjoyable music on the disk. The diversity is exemplified by the fact that there are two lead vocalists and composers here. Susan West sings the bluesier rockier songs for the most part, while Michael Simmons tackles the poppier ones. The melodies and production are top-notch. The most eye-opening song is "A Nice One" with its stripped down piano/vocals arrangement emphasizing the lyrics - e.g. "You don't know you're happy until you're sad."

 

03/28/02 - SPOTTING of the band at the Bubblegum Bowl from the New Times LA

by Jim Freek

Despite scheduling conflicts with the venue and the L.A. Weekly's bizarre pronouncement that both Nikki Corvette and Teacher's Pet would be performing (neither did), Scram magazine's second Bubblegum Ball proceeded successfully at the AMF Midtown Lanes Saturday night. While sugary blasts of pure pop blared from the speakers and a pair of go-go girls jiggled on a countertop usually reserved for bowling-alley coffee-shop grub, "Bubblegum Queen" (whatever that means) Kelly Kuvo pranced around measuring bubbles and generally looking like a member of Fuzzbox. Elsewhere, drunken bowlers tossed brightly colored gumballs down neon-lit lanes, and Ron Dante himself -- the Jesus Christ of the genre due to his gig as the voice behind the Archies -- showed up long enough to hand out vintage Archies trading cards before eventually cutting out because of a sore throat. Sparkle*Jets U.K. ("the New ELO") rocked the ball with a set of Archies and Jackson 5 tunes (plus an amp-melting romp through the Osmonds' "Crazy Horses"), while glittery glamsters Marizane ("the New Jobriath") fooled everyone by showing up dressed as the Sour Grapes Bunch from the Banana Splits and launched into a bizarre set of acoustic polkagum that consisted of a tripped-out cover of "Green Tambourine" with vocalist Todd Jaeger writhing in the middle of a lane wearing a grape costume. Aside from bluesman Cosmo Sinclair (last seen sneaking into Largo on Friday night with Britrock legend Ian Hunter) being accidentally identified by one overzealous bubblehead as Danny Partridge, the only other bit of noteworthy scandal occurred when a pair of lipstick lesbos who escaped from a party in the downstairs roller rink made a bold attempt to "get it goin' on" with Freek Show's posse of sticky-sweet pop-tarts. Spotted partaking in this endless spectacle of cavity-causing fun were Jellyfish/Beck keyboardist Roger Manning, pop scribes John Borack and David Bash, and Señor Amor as well as members of the Partridge Family Temple, the Sugarplastic, Teen Machine, the Twigs, the Shakes and the Wiggles. When the party finally came to a crashing halt courtesy of the prepubescent boogie stomp of Mud's "Tiger Feet," Freek Show couldn't remember whose lane we woke up in or if we left our wad of Dubble Bubble (the new ecstasy) on the bowling pin overnight...

 

03/24/02 - Blog entry regarding SJUK @ the Bubblegum Ball (you write it, we'll rip it)

by Scott Sookman

Then later this evening, I indulged my taste, an insular and odd as it may be, for Bubblegum Music, yes, that's right, at the Bubblegum Ball, put on by Scram Magazine, in conjunction with the book they released, Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, which yours truly is a contributor to. However, don't look for any writings, I only contributed photos. I
highly recommend this tome anyway for the wealth of knowledge and entertainment it provides.

So anyway, if you've looked at the site for this concert/event, you can see how great and goofy it was. Anytime where I can bowl while drinking Tequila Sunrises while "Wig Wam Bam" by The Sweet blares over the P.A.
system is an awesome night for me. But things kicked into crazy overdrive when a guy wearing a silver spandex jumpsuit, silver pinstripe suit and silver makeup appeared. He informed me that he was one of The Mercury Men,a bunch of psuedo mimes who do...nothing. Check out their website and you'll figure it out. But now it makes more sense when he climbed up on to the counter and stood there motionless for half an hour, completely blocking my view of Sparkle*Jets U.K., a local power pop combo from Orange County. I highly recommend their first CD,
which I own. And no, they aren't from the U.K. they're just a bunch of smartasses, which endears them to me immediately. They did a set of all covers of The Jackson Five, and then later on a set of tunes by The Archies. Archies lead singer Ron Dante was supposed to drop by for one song, but didn't show up. Oh well.

 

03/14/02 - REVIEW of Bamboo Lounge from NoHo>LA

Sparkle*jets u.k.'s new record, Bamboo Lounge, must have broken through the stringent wall of the Orange Curtain, because their brand of rock has the aggressive punch of underground tempered by the brightness of refined pop. What a concept. The band understands the intricate balance of composition and structure. Yet, each track is unique unto itself. It is a sound that is so fresh and original that it is practically revolutionary. “She May Be Nice” and “So Gone” establish the band as legitimate rockers. The band also capitalizes on the multi-media concept with their CD. Definitely worth the dinero. Smile Records.

 

03/06/02 - REVIEW of Bamboo Lounge from the Santa Monica Mirror

by Tony Peyser

An old joke has a Rabbi and a Priest watching a guy in boxing trunks repeatedly cross himself as he steps into the ring. The Rabbi says, “What does that mean?” The Priest replies, “Not much if he can’t fight.” I got Bamboo Lounge, the latest CD by Sparkle*Jets U.K. In the spine of the plastic album case was a tiny bamboo cocktail umbrella. Cool? Absolutely. But it doesn’t mean much if they can’t play. Can they? Uh, yeah.

S.J.U.K. certainly falls under the power pop heading but this thing really rocks. Some power pop can be like cake icing but they throw in lots of cake, too, which adds to the substance. Co-lead vocalist Susan West’s voice has a knowing swagger but she can also put over an innocent song like “A Nice One.” In “She May Be Nice,” there’s a criminally catchy chorus and a solid vocal from Michael Simmons. “Consult Your Physician” is literally thumping because of Jamie Knight's bass playing which accompanies West’s sultry singing. I love these lines: “Take those coins off your eyes/You’re not dead yet.” S.J.U.K. reminds me of No Doubt but with snappier lyrics. They don’t play ska but they’ve somehow captured that energy. And how can you not be won over by an album with a song called, They Shoot Square Dancers, Don’t They?”

 

02/11/02 - REVIEW of Bamboo Lounge from Fufkin.com

by Mike Bennett

California quartet's second disc shows the band continuing to explore what they can do - and there is plenty of stuff to explore, since The 'Jets are blessed with two compelling frontpersons. Susan West has a great voice, but more importantly, she has a strong personality, and so it makes sense that she can try out some different styles. The same goes for Mike Simmons, but for different reasons. Simmons seems to be a walking rock encyclopaedia, as his songwriting reflects a broad knowledge of rock genres, while managing not to sound like some guy recreating his record collection. His voice isn't as distinctive, yet Simmons can effortlessly pull off whatever vocal a song requires.

In fact, in contrast to their often frenzied shows, Sparkle * Jets U.K. is as cool as a cucumber on record - this disc is an intriguing listen because the songs are so instantly likable and have such palatable surfaces, it takes multiple spins to hear all that's going on. Another contrast to the live experience is that the band doesn't rock out a whole lot - Simmons, in particular, is showing off his mellow side.

Like on the lovely Beach Boys inspired intro to "Sorry", a pretty ballad with a guest flute solo by Lisa Jenio of Candypants that will remind you of a similar solo in The Beatles' "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away", but rather than triumphant, Jenio's work adds to the blue tones. Meanwhile, "Beautiful Girl" has a slight tropical lilt and a tunefulness that Chewy Marble fans will dig. And "Nobody's Girl" is a slice of '70s blue eyed soul with Simmons' best vocal - Stevie Wonder would be proud to claim this melody as his own.

This doesn't mean that Simmons has forgotten how to rock. "So Gone" storms into your speakers, throwing in a '70s hard rock guitar bit (Rush, perhaps?), but juxtaposes some sweet melodies and bitter words ("I don't get to choose, I know I'll lose/but she says that's just what losers do" - ouch!) in the verses - the way the band stitches together the hard rock with the soft rock is ingenious. "Hate Your Hair" is a punky basher, and a video of the track is included on the ultra-enhanced CD (which includes Mp3s of live tracks and much more).

West provides the spice - "Consult Your Physician" is a (as Johnny Otis would say) crazy country hop, Larry Doran snapping out a loping rhythm, while West tries to cheer up a friend: "You can agonize/till your agony/is your heaviest load/come on, get happy." West shows a flirty, girlie side without sounding cutsie - she unleashes enough of her vocal power to remind you she's woman and don't you forget it. This song also has cool chunka-chunka guitars that make it extra catchy.

"Monster" is a chugging mid-tempo rocker (that would segue well into Heart's "Barracuda") with West again totally in charge. When the horns kick in on the middle eight, victory is hers. Some may already be familiar with "Real Nice Time" from the third International Pop Overthrow compilation, but it's too good not to make a Sparkle * Jets U.K. album - another West composition that is definitely guitar pop, but hard to define, it is a rollicking song that is celebratory and withering, as West chastises her lover for trying to two-time her: "Did you have a good time?/did you have one with lime?/did someone say l'chaim?/Did you tell her you're mine?"

The album flags just a bit towards the end, but there are plenty of strong songs until that point. They have a definitive great pop album in them (and perhaps more) and they are very close to getting there.

 

02/11/02 - REVIEW of Bamboo Lounge from The Phoenix (loyola university, Chicago)

The great unknowns:
the year's best music you probably haven't heard of

by Ben Collins

With all due respect to Weezer, Sparklejets U.K. is the best nerd rock band on the planet. From its blatantly incorrect moniker (the members are from California), to its overt worship of '60s and '70s pop, Sparklejets U.K. is simply a group of music geeks making music that is endlessly sunny and enjoyable. The band features two songwriters, the pop traditionalist Simmons, who splits his songs between ballads like "Sorry" and rockers like "She May Be Nice," and the bubbly Susan West, responsible for the album's most energetic tracks like the opener "Monster" and "They Shoot Square Dancers."

 

02/11/02 - REVIEW of Bamboo Lounge from Fufkin.com

by Gary Glauber

Release Date: February 26, 2002

Bamboo is a fast-growing plant that offers strength and flexibility, much in the same way as the sparkle*jets u.k. Bamboo Lounge provides musical muscle and range. Before one even gets to spin this one, you get the treat of the CD packaging (graphic design courtesy of the talented Susan West and Michael Simmons), which includes a little cocktail umbrella encased within your plastic jewel box. As you pull the CD booklet out of its sleeve, you are treated to the exotic drink menu of this fictional cocktail lounge, and you won’t find more cordial hosts than the four members of sparkle*jets u.k.

Every song is a mixed concoction on this lyric sheet menu, the song times presented as prices. If you think that’s fun, just wait until you give the music a whirl - according to this bartender, it’s four parts fun, four parts chutzpah, mixed with sly rock and pop references from the sixties through the nineties, stirred well with energy and talent and topped with a maraschino cherry. This heady mix packs a wallop, but leaves you wanting more.

Okay, so you put your CD into your computer’s disk drive to give it a spin…but wait…something else pops onto your screen. It’s a little cell phone that reads “SJUK”. Talk about value for your CD dollar. Not only do you get 14 tracks of exciting studio music, you get welcomed into a multimedia bonus room of the Bamboo Lounge. Here you get the choice of looking at the lyrics to each song on your screen, or perhaps you’d like a whole extra CD’s worth of live song performances (12 songs) from this past year’s IPO. Additionally, there are photos, fonts, even a video of “Hate Your Hair”, plus another 15 bonus tracks (demos and the like). All in all, probably the most music you’ve ever gotten from any one CD.

This is just the kind of wacky happy surprise you can expect from the likes of sparkle*jets u.k., a band named for the Gretsch guitars they envisioned for themselves post-fame. The “u.k.” merely is a humorous tag added to garner attention, provide some continental cache and distinguish them from the long list of bands with sparkle or jet in their names (they’re from Orange County, California).

Since the release of their first CD, 1998’s In, Through, and Beyond, the group has logged in extensive touring time, entertaining crowds from coast-to-coast with their rollicking musical antics. In between original CDs came an unusual marketing idea, as sparkle*jets u.k. enlisted 20 bands from the Los Angeles area to cover their tunes on a self-produced tribute CD (to themselves) I Love The Sparkle*jets U.K..

This was a bold move, to say the least, and somewhat unprecedented in the annals of rock history. Still, the tribute CD met with favorable reviews.

How dare a band be so audacious? The answer can be found in the music, obviously. The sparkle*jets u.k. are a talented quartet, and can sport a number of different powerpop styles (3 of the 4 are songwriters). The majority of the songs are penned by guitarist/vocalist Michael Simmons, resident computer geek of the band. Still, many other of the songs are written and sung by the charmingly quirky Susan West (who also plays guitar and sports a voice that demands your attention). Jamie Knight co-writes a few here as well, playing bass while on leave from his high school librarian duties. Larry Doran pounds the drums when not manning the counter of your favorite cool record shop.

“Monster” leads off the proceedings, with Susan West serving up an Ann Wilson-ish vocal that will get your Heart thumping, with a lyric that reminds you that monsters can be girls too (convincingly presented). Probyn Gregory adds some nice horns as well. We get a similar Wilson-ish vocal on the rocking “They Shoot Square Dancers, Don’t They?”

“She May Be Nice” gives us the other sparkle*jets u.k., with Michael Simmons pleasant voice harmonizing nicely with Susan’s, in a catchy romantic ditty that steals a wee hook from Kiss (heaven forfend) and still manages to win you over. How could one not love simple-yet-true lyrics like: “She may have eyes of blue/ Killer thighs and a boss tattoo / The toast of every guy in town / A whole wardrobe that oozes style / Breaking hearts with just her smile / She may be nice, but she ain’t you”.

Sweet harmonies lead into the slower-tempo ballad “Sorry”, serving up a sort of David Gates/Bread feel to this lover’s apology (with a nice touch of flute from Lisa Jenio). In “Consult Your Physician”, Dr. Susan West uses her lovely voice to play both speaker channels to the hilt, reminding us things are not as bad as they seem: “You can agonize till your agony is your heaviest load / Come on, get happy!”

The thing is, sparkle*jets u.k. can make even the bad times seem fun. “So Gone” is a catchy soft rock anthem from Michael Simmons and Jamie Knight exploring bitter memories of a relationship gone horribly bad. “Real Nice Time” is the Susan West answer to similar subject material. Again, how can one not warm to such lyrics as this: “Did you have a good time? / Did you have one with lime? / Did someone say l’chaim? / Did you tell her you’re mine? / Well I hope you had a real nice time without me”.

“Beautiful Girl” lets Simmons show his lounge lizard chops as he romances said beautiful girl with “the only song that’s true”. No stranger to jazzy lounge music, he also impresses with the intriguing and exotic title instrumental “Bamboo Lounge”(complete with wild monkeys screeching).

Fans of loud punk rock will enjoy “Hate Your Hair” (but fleetingly, since it clocks in at only 42 seconds). “It’s Gotta Happen” is an infectiously wonderful hand-clapping piece of pop that reminds all of us striving for greater things that “it’s gotta happen” even if “it sure ain’t happening now”.

“Nobody’s Girl” reminds you of all those wonderful songs from the seventies (back when radio still had promise - ah, nostalgia). “A Nice One” wins as the song that made me smile the most. Here Susan West explains why she wants to write a nice pretty song, rather than another mean one, telling us how one is necessary to appreciate the other: “It’s smog that makes the sky look pretty / It’s hunger that makes your food taste good / And you don’t know you’re happy until you’re sad”.

There’s a full and varied menu of songs and styles presented here, and you’ll want to drink of these libations liberally (I haven’t even touched upon any of the extra music) in order to best digest it all. Fun and talent meet up at the Bamboo Lounge and you get a great musical bang for the buck. Drink up and sing along with sparkle*jets u.k., but always watch out for the wild monkeys.

 

12/27/01 - BLURB citing Bamboo Lounge as one of the year's best. from the Orange County Register

by Robert Kinsler, Special to the Register

Whatever happened to real pop? Not 'N Sync or the Backstreet Boys, but that strain of tuneful rock that traces its sound to the early Beatles, and encompassed everything from Badfinger and Squeeze to Cheap Trick and Crowded House. Thankfully, it survives and thrives across the O.C. landscape, and many of the year's best local releases found pay dirt in the past. Sparkle*Jets U.K. hit a home run with "Bamboo Lounge."

 

11/18/01 - INTERVIEW with sparkle*jets u.k. from Amplifier Magazine

by Lee Zimmerman

sparkle*jets u.k. Big Bamboo

The members of sparkle*jets u.k. love to stick their tongues firmly in their cheeks. For starters, they're not from the United Kingdom, they're from California. Then there's the matter of a recent tribute album that they arranged for themselves.

From the very beginning, sparkle*jets u.k. never considered itself just another band. Singers and guitarists Susan West and Michael Simmons, as well as bassist Jamie Knight, were each playing with other combos when they met about five years ago while sharing the same concert bill. Looking for an avenue to showcase their songwriting skills, they came up with the concept of a band that would feature several singers and songwriters.

"The original group was sort of a Fleetwood Mac anomaly," Susan recalls. "It was a group of six or seven who all wrote and sang and didn't work very long, because most everyone was interested in only doing their own songs. So, yes, it was eventually just the three of us - Mike, Susan and Jamie - left standing. We all got along very nicely and we appreciated out similar - and wide - musical tastes."

Wide indeed. The group's sound encompasses everyone from Pat Benatar to the Beach Boys, with a healthy helping of the Go-Go's, the Beatles, Shoes and the Raspberries as well as countless other power pop purveyors. Their Sophomore set, Bamboo Lounge, boasts so many styles that it's all but impossible to pigeonhole their sound.

"My pop trinity consists of Paul McCartney, Jeff Lynne and Brian Wilson." Mike declares. "It goes on from there… everything from 'have a nice day' ere '70's that I grew up with , through Adam and the Ants, Pixies, and Squeeze, to Fountains of Wayne."

"Yes," Susan chimes in. "The Beatles, Beach Boys, Sonic Youth, the Hot August Night record by Neil Diamond, Beck, Ben Folds, the Jackson 5…"

Although Mike admits to being "a big-time anglophile," the band is from suburban Orange County, not Great Britain. So why the "u.k." tag in their name? "It came to our attention that there were so many other bands with "sparkle" or "jets" in their names already," Mike says. "We just said 'screw it' and adopted the infamous 'u.k.' - you know, that '80's legal thingy, Squeeze, Charlatans - as a joke at first, but everybody dug it so it stuck."

"The sparkle*jet name came from a visit we made to our local guitar store," Susan remembers. "I think the 'u.k.' was helped along with beer. Beer is good. We like beer. And shiny guitars."

The group's lighthearted attitude is at least partially responsible for originating the idea of producing their own tribute disc. They came up with the concept shortly after the band made its debut at L.A.'s famed International Pop Overthrow in 1999 following the release of their debut album. Their appearance created a buzz among the other participants, as well as instant friendships with their fellow pop purveyors.

"We'd joked about doing a tribute album," Mike chuckles. "One morning I sent an email out to a bunch of bands and said: 'What do you think of this?' The response was insane! By that afternoon, every song on our debut was spoken for, and I was scrambling through lists of old tunes of ours and new ones, looking for songs people could commit to. It just amounted to a lot of fun, and a cross-promotion and celebration for everybody."

Not surprisingly, with only one album recorded at the tine - In, Through, and Beyond - the band ran out of songs for others to cover. Some of the participants - the Andersons, Nipper and the Seaturtles, and Ben Eshbach from the Sugarplastic - wrote original songs specifically for the project.

The band, which now includes drummer Larry Doran, insists their uniqueness has more to do with simply being the subject of a tribute disc, and they're not shy about trumpeting their own assets.

"Well, dammit, we rock! That's the biggest difference." Mike insists. "We love all the band and our friends in the pop scene, but I think we're easily one of the more rocking, and I think what we're doing is more universal and expansive as far as style goes."

Whatever the case may be, sparkle*jets u.k. appear primed to take their talents to the next level. They recently signed with Smile Records / Image Entertainment, which has agreed to release Bamboo Lounge nationwide in February. In addition, there are plans for more tribute discs in the pipeline. This time, however, they'll be the ones paying homage to their heroes.

"We're honored as hell to be on an upcoming tribute to Jeff Lynne [due soon on Not Lame], my No. 1 personal lifelong hero," Mike gushes. "I can't tell you what that means to me personally!"

"We also did the Shoes tribute earlier this year," Susan adds. "And we have a Bubble Gum compilation that has us doing 'I Want You Back' by the Jackson 5.

"We hope to do our part to bring real pop back to the kids of the world." she declares by way of summation. "That's what matters."

 

11/18/01 - REVIEW of Bamboo Lounge from Amplifier Magazine

by David Bash

It's not often you encounter a group that knows how not to take itself too seriously, while simultaneously taking its craft very seriously. Such is the case with sparkle*jets u.k., and on their second long-player, Bamboo Lounge, these guys and gal from Orange County, Calif., serve up 14 kick-ass, melodic tunes. The band features two singer/songwriters. Susan West's glass-breaking voice is put to great use on Heart-esque tunes like "Monster," "Real Nice Time," the rump shaker "Consul Your Physician" (if West's idol isn't Ann Wilson, she ought to be), and the curveball "A Nice One," a cheeky lullaby. The other lead vocalist, Mike Simmons, is equally versatile, moving from sturdy power poppers like "She May Be Nice" to the Splitsville-influenced ballad "Sorry" to the dark, lean "Nobody's Girl." The band has a knack for lifting passages from classic tunes, like the "Rock 'n' Roll All Night" guitar figure on "She May Be Nice," the "Forever" vocal intro on "Sorry" and the "Even the Nights are Better" melody line in the Chorus of the sweet power popper "So Gone." With its handclaps, carefree melody and chirpy chorus, "It's Gotta Happen" is perhaps the song on Bamboo Lounge most dressed for success. IT should definitely be a theme to a children's TV show. In the more bang for your buck department, Bamboo Lounge has a CD-ROM section containing a sparkle*jets u.k. video (Hate Your Hair), an entire live album (with artwork you can print yourself), and demos of almost every song on the album. If you're looking for a disc that will make you shake your booty while giving you the warm fuzzies, get Bamboo Lounge and ram it immediately into your CD player!

 

10/05/01 - REVIEW of Bamboo Lounge from the Orange County Register

by Robert Kinsler, Special to the Register

Sparkle*Jets U.K. reveal there is nothing wrong with looking back.

On the Fullerton-based quartet's latest CD, "Bamboo Lounge," the band mixes up a number of notable pop styles from the 1960s, '70s and '80s, and the result is a 14-song collection that sounds is familiar without ever sounding like a retro ripoff.

A large part of the success flows from guitarists Michael Simmons and Susan West, who trade equally strong lead vocal duties. And everyone in the band, which includes bassist Jamie Knight and drummer Larry Doran, play with a collective skill rare on the regional pop-rock scene.

You might enjoy if you like: previous Sparkle*Jets U.K. releases, No Doubt's "Return of Saturn," Blondie

 

08/01 - REVIEW of Bamboo Lounge from Goldmine Magazine

by John Borack


sparkle*jets u.k. have, within two short years, risen towards the top of the Los Angeles pop scene by virtue of their snappy, pithy tunes and their kickin' live shows (which are highlighted by the amazing lead guitar work of Mike Simmons and the quirky, good-girl-gone-wacky vocals of Susan West).

Bamboo Lounge is the 'jets' second full-length release, but there's no need to worry about any sort of sophomore slump; this is a better, more assured and definitely more consistently enticing record than their debut, which was pretty darned good itself.

A trip inside Bamboo Lounge guides the listener through stomping pop numbers ("So Gone," "She May Be Nice"), an ultra-pretty, Beach Boys-styled confessional ("Sorry"), wacked-out psychobilly ("Consult Your Physician"), snotty anti-girl group pop ("Real Nice Time"), thrashy near-metal ("Hate Your Hair") and an airy, childlike, piano-fueled charmer ("A Nice One"). There's also room for a fun-filled game of Spot the Influence, as the band good-naturedly borrows bits from such diverse acts as Kiss, Heart, the Partridge Family, Chicago and Them.

All the style hopping might not work in the hands of some, but sjuk simply sound as if they're branching out and attempting to extend their reach beyond simple guitar-bass-and-drums pop ditties. The perfectly placed horns (courtesy of Probyn Gregory) on tracks like "Monster," "So Gone" and "Real Nice Time" are evidence of this, as is the band's maturing lyrical stance on cuts like "Nobody's Girl" and "So Gone." Also worthy of note are the rock-solid bass of Jamie Knight (love the solo that ends "Monster") and Simmons' perfect, spiraling guitar leads on "They Shoot Square Dancers, Don't They?" and "Real Nice Time."

With equal amounts of musicianship, good humor and---most importantly---memorable songs (and some pretty spiffy packaging, to boot), sparkle*jets u.k. hit a home run with Bamboo Lounge.

 

08/03/01 - WIERD MEDIA PIECE COVER FEATURE: SJUK were asked about their favorite chow spots in their native O.C. from the Orange County Weekly. REALLY FUN!!

ACTIVE EATS - And it's one, two, three -- what are we dining for?

 

Who says OC bands can’t change the world? Sparkle*Jets U.K. is out to prove that all modern pop music is not about boy bands and horny nymphets. They also love to eat.

BREAKFAST: The Original Pancake House has three types of pancakes, which, through creative labeling on their menu, they’ve spun off into about 40 types. They get a little grouchy on Sundays, but don’t let that faze you. The potato pancakes are amazing and less greasy than what you’d get at a deli. They also have, hands down, the best cup of coffee we’ve had this side of Seattle.

LUNCH: When we’re not at Wahoo’s or Rutebegorz, lunch goes to Gustav’s Jagerhaus. There’s nothing in this world like a nice plate of wienerschnitzel and spätzle (that’s pounded and breaded veal—sorry, vegetarians—with German noodles on the side). Squirt a little lemon on there, and watch out! Simple, hearty, amazing, amazing, amazing. Plus, the mint they give you afterward is pretty incredible, too.

DINNER: A three-way tie: Felix’s in the Orange Circle is the best Cuban food around, and a favorite of rock stars the world over. Try whatever sounds interesting, but the important thing is the black beans and rice, which will make your head spin around like Linda Blair’s. You’ll swear upon the life of the 50-year-old pine tree in the plaza that run-of-the-mill, El Torito-esque Spanish rice shall never touch your lips again. Try to get one of the dinner items that includes dessert, so you can finish off your dinner with the tres leches cake. So good you could die.

Our other most amazing dinner spot is Spicy Thai, which has the best mee grob in the whole world! And for an entrée? Two words: GARLIC SHRIMP. Little shrimp surrounded by big slabs of sliced, roasted garlic that you can just eat like candy and stink up the office good and proper the next day. The portions are small, so you’ll want one plate of shrimp per person if you plan to keep the peace. I’ve seen close friends come away bleeding after fighting over food at Spicy Thai. Unforgettable grindage.

And, of course, our big fave is Jackshrimp. Get the Jackshrimp or Jack Snack (smaller) or skip the damn shrimp altogether and order the Jack Sauce and Bread because, frankly, the shrimp are a sideline. Eating Jackshrimp is like losing your virginity. Bread goes in the sauce and your mouth burns at first, but the pain is eventually replaced by—dare I say it?—an orgasmic food experience. When we eat there, we don’t talk much . . . mostly just groans of disbelief and wild gustatory abandon. Legend has it that the recipe for the sauce is so secret the owner still makes it in his garage in huge buckets and delivers it to the restaurants so even the employees can’t leak the recipe. This is the place to take your out-of-town friends if they only have one night in OC. (RK)

Original Pancake House, 1418 E. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 535-9815; Gustav’s Jagerhaus, 2525 E. Ball Rd., Anaheim, (714) 520-9500; Felix’s Continental Café, 36 Plaza Square, Orange, (714) 633-5842; Spicy Thai Restaurant, 4715 W. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 750-7799; Jackshrimp, 3041 Michelson Dr., Irvine, (949) 252-1023; also 26705 Aliso Creek Rd., Aliso Viejo, (949)_448-0085; also 2400 W. Coast Hwy., Newport Beach, (949) 650-5577.

 

08/03/01 - REVIEW (kinda sorta) of SJUK at the Galaxy Theater (International Pop Overthrow) from the Orange County Weekly

BLITZKREIG POP

by Rich Kane

The International Pop Overthrow
Galaxy Concert Theatre
Sunday, July 29

Goddamn it, we love the International Pop Overthrow (IPO). What other music fest prints up 48-page programs (on snazzy, high-quality heavy stock, no less) and gives them away for freakin’ free? And at what other fest will you find companion double-CD compilations featuring many of the participating bands—and those are being given away for freakin’ free, too, to real, ordinary people even, not just members of the whoremongering music media?

Better still, this year’s eveningwear portion of the fourth annual IPO’s Orange County Day (the sunburn segment was held earlier in the day at Garden Grove’s Eastgate Park; we didn’t make it on account of a towering pile of stanky laundry that needed some lovin’) took place for the first time at a proper, upstanding OC venue, the Galaxy, whose operators graciously donated the use of their building for the event, seeing that all the proceeds from the door went to the Garden Grove Boys & Girls Club (and let’s be honest: the Galaxy is a much spiffier hall than the dive bar that previously hosted the OC IPO—this time, parents and kids even showed up).

So we found ourselves a table, ordered up a plate of nachos—the meat- and beanless ones the Galaxy serves, with cheese that’s the consistency of window caulk—and indulged in an ocean of creamy, power-pop goodness.

Robbie Rist (yep, the same kid who played Cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch; he’s all grown up now and sports a creepy serial-killer goatee) came out to introduce OC’s beloved Sparkle*jets U.K., calling them "one of the finest rock bands Orange County and possibly the world has ever produced—stop laughing; it’s true!" Well, we didn’t laugh—because it is true. But we bailed early, assuming that Sparkle*jets would fire off yet another perfect set and not willing to risk the uncertainty of unfamiliar headliner P-Hux, in case he blew and ended our night on a downer. To paraphrase Sparkle*jetter Susan West, we had a real nice time without him. (Rich Kane)

 

08/01 - REVIEW of "Real Nice Time" (IPO Vol. 3 Soundtrack) from the Santa Monica Mirror

by Tony Peyser

"Real Nice Time" by sparkle*jets u.k. is a throwback to 1980s bands like Holly & the Italians which also featured a girl singer with lots of attitude. This song is sensationally sarcastic as Susan West snidely inquires about her boyfriend’s night out with some girl: "Did you have a good time?/Did someone say L’chaim?" (I also love the fact that sparkle*jets u.k. are from ..Orange County.)

 

07/27/01 - ARTICLE about International Pop Overthrow 2001 from the Orange County Weekly

SUGAR HIGH - POWER POP RULES AT THE IPO

by Rich Kane


Somewhere in the grand, global soundscape, amid KROQ’s 24-hour white noise of brooding, spell-your-name-wrong-and-sell-a-zillion-units dood-rawk bands, among the Empty-Vee blur of self-obsessed hip-hoppers (please come back, Chuck D!) and Rolling Stone’s ongoing parade of if-her-label-publicist-says-she-can-sing-and-she’s-got-nice-tits-then-she’s-good-enough-to-be-on-the-cover nymphets, you’d think there’d be enough room—just a small, well-kept, sugar-coated corner—for David Bash and his International Pop Overthrow (IPO). And IPO founder Bash, ever an optimist, is determined to carve out such a niche—re-establish one, actually—for power pop (with the emphasis on power, so as not to be confused with the glut of boy-band Muzak that most young’uns call "pop"—more about that in a sec). The sort of pop that thrived on AM radio in the 1960s and ’70s—think everything from the Beatles to the Bay City Rollers, the stuff of high harmonies, slick licks and hooks that stick in your head for eons, flexing just enough electric muscle to avoid Carpenters terrain. A tad sugary, maybe, but never sour.

"Pop gets put aside these days," says Bash, who, as we chat on the phone, is in the final, frantic throes of cramming together the last pieces of the fourth annual IPO, a 15-day, 147-band pop orgy taking place in a slew of mostly LA clubs, the lone exception being the fest’s dip this Sunday into OC, with lineups set for the Galaxy Concert Theatre and Garden Grove’s Eastgate Park. "It hasn’t been embraced by the mainstream in a long time, these songs with catchy choruses and strong melodies. But it’s music that should endure, really, a timeless entity. And if it’s marketed correctly, it could come back."

That’s one of the goals of IPO, Bash says: to make enough noise in the Music Capital of the World, if only for two weeks, that labels both major and minor will notice and maybe sign a few bands.

But so far, "success" is typically calculated in near misses. Last year, Bash says, "this band from Norway, American Suitcase, almost got signed off their IPO gig. A guy from Sire came down and caught their set, but they ultimately weren’t what the label was looking for."

Another aim is to integrate the worldwide pop scene, he says. That’s something Bash’s bash easily pulls off every year. Band submissions for IPO 2001 came from Spain, the U.K., Canada, Austria, France and Australia. You know your event’s gone international when, as happened last year, a band travels from Japan to play a half-hour afternoon set in a normally placid Garden Grove neighborhood park.

Still, the word "pop" can be a pretty broad term, and it doesn’t always translate well, even among the allegedly English-speaking. "What some bands consider pop isn’t always right with our vision," Bash says. "We’ve gotten tapes from funk bands, rap-metal acts, country bands, you name it."

Bash, who writes about music for various magazines, had been involved with Poptopia, another LA-based pop fest (usually held in February but on hiatus this year) when he got the idea to scope out pop bands from outside the region, as opposed to Poptopia’s more LA-centric scheme. He borrowed the International Pop Overthrow moniker from the debut album by early ’90s Chicago band Material Issue, partly as a tribute to the trio’s lead singer, Jim Ellison, who had just killed himself. He then came up with a wish list of pop bands he wanted to see—mostly those he’d already reviewed—and 120 bands later, the first IPO bowed in August 1998. With the help of friend and OC resident John Borack (who now has the official title of IPO administrative coordinator), each IPO has had a de facto Orange County Day. This year, the IPO’s OC presence grows a bit larger, as the nighttime sets move from the previous years’ claustrophobic confines of Fitzgerald’s Irish Pub in Huntington Beach to the plusher digs of the Galaxy. "The Fitzgerald’s shows were always packed, and we wanted to branch out," Bash explains. "What we’re doing is easily compatible with the kind of shows the Galaxy does on a regular basis, so this year, we thought, let’s just make it that much bigger, at a premiere OC venue."

(As in the past, all the money from the door will be donated by IPO to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Orange County.)

Going through the list of bands slotted for IPO’s OC segment, Bash likes San Diego’s Teacher’s Pet ("Very ’70s glam rock. They even have cheerleaders with them onstage—or so I’m told"); the Replacements-esque Dipsomaniacs from New Jersey; the B-52’s-ness of Bionic Blimp; Chicago’s Big Hello; and LA’s Teen Machine, who Bash says are like Redd Kross meets the Sweet, replete with lots of campy girl dancers.

My picks, meanwhile, are all OC bands: the sweet, tight harmonies and buzzy guitars of Scarlet Crush; the pretty-darn-perfect Sparkle*jets U.K.; and Walter "King of Pop" Clevenger and his band, the Dairy Kings.

Do not come to the IPO looking for the next plastic, manufactured, disposable, aimed-at-the-teenage-demographic boy band, though—this ain’t that kind of pop. "That music is called ‘pop’ these days by kids who don’t know any better," says Bash. "But if they believe in that term, I would think they’d be more likely to take in the other, more guitar-oriented forms of it. While the IPO bands are inspired by bands of the 1960s and ’70s, the music is nothing like those boy bands. On the other hand, because of Britney and the boy bands, we’ve thought seriously about the perceptions of that word. We’ve even thought about maybe changing our name."

"We’re all kind of afraid to call it ‘pop’ now," admits Mike Simmons of Sparkle*jets UK. "We just call it ‘power pop.’ It’s mostly all Beatle-ese, anyway."

But definitions and names will undoubtedly resolve themselves in future IPOs. And Bash sees his growing fest as growing bigger, stronger—even profitable. People have hit him up about franchising or starting similar IPOs in other countries. Maybe, Bash says, but not any time soon. Right now, all Bash is aiming for is to break even, as he has every year. "It’s meant to make enough money to sustain it until the next year, and so far, we’ve been able to do that. I don’t have the Rolls-Royce or the Jaguar just yet—I don’t even have the SUV. I still live in a two-bedroom apartment."

 

07/13/01 - ARTICLE about International Pop Overthrow 2001 from the Orange County Register

by Robert Kinsler, Special to the Register

ORANGE POP - IPO Takes on the World

Summer is historically that time of year when cheery and tuneful pop music sounds best.

And once again, the arrival of the International Pop Overthrow for two marathon- length shows in Orange County on Sunday is a well-timed excuse to forget about the pressures of modern-day life and enjoy the enduring sounds of artists who aren't afraid to arm their songs with infectious melodies, irresistible hooks and lush harmonies.

Those attending International Pop Overthrow (commonly referred to as I.P.O.) shows at Eastgate Park in Garden Grove on Sunday afternoon or the Galaxy Concert Theatre in Santa Ana that evening will catch several artists who owe more than a passing creative nod to '60s bands such as the Beatles, the Byrds and the Beach Boys, as well as second-wave pop pioneers such as Cheap Trick, the Raspberries and 20/20.

"The reason I.P.O. has succeeded is because it draws artists from outside the L.A. pop scene (which includes Orange County acts), attracting musicians from around the world," said John Borack, who has organized every Orange County I.P.O. benefit show since the festival was launched in 1998. This weekend's benefit concert at the Galaxy Theatre will raise funds for the Boys and Girls Club of Garden Grove.

Indeed, in addition to several Orange County-based bands performing this weekend, the I.P.O. Sunday shows will feature acts from as far away as England and Chicago.

"I think people see L.A. as one of the places that launched the second wave of pop - particularly 20/20, the Knack and the Plimsouls," said Borack, who is not only manager of community/ media relations for Time Warner Cable, but a longtime fan of pop-styled rock and a frequent writer for Goldmine Magazine, the Garden Grove Journal and Amplifier Magazine.

While other pop music scenes have emerged around the globe (including in Japan, Australia and Sweden, as well as U.S. cities such as Chicago, Nashville and New York), Southern California continues to be a magnet for bands hoping to play in the sun-soaked region that launched still-legendary pop acts such as the Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, the Turtles and the Grass Roots.

But just as the Beach Boys and the Turtles carved out distinctly separate artistic identities, the strongest area pop rock bands have found out they are each able to create a sound of their own.

"The pop scene is even diverse in Orange County. The overlapping qualities are attention to harmonies, melodies and good songs," said Costa Mesa singer-songwriter Walter Clevenger, who with the Dairy Kings is performing at the Galaxy Theatre show. "But you won't see two bands that are the same."

While Clevenger blends country, pop and rock, Huntington Beach singer-songwriter Jeffrey Foskett (who just returned from a long tour of the United States playing guitar and lending backing vocals for Brian Wilson) creates songs that could fit nicely alongside classic Beach Boys recordings.

Scarlet Crush's sound is harder, drawing comparisons to Crowded House and Dada. At I.P.O., fans of all of pop's preferences gather to celebrate the genre's rich spectrum. International Pop Overthrow began July 21 and runs through Aug. 4, with 19 separate events being held as part of the two-week event.

"I always enjoy I.P.O. for several reasons. It's a great opportunity to network with other artists, and you get to play to a lot of new faces," Clevenger said.

"Another reason, as a fan it's great. I get to see a bunch of bands that I like but have never got to see live before."

Borack and artists playing as part of I.P.O. are also helping to put the so-called Third Wave of contemporary pop rock on the international stage.

"What we really need to come out of (holding such an ambitious pop festival) is the idea if people come, they will see how good the music really is," said Michael Simmons, singer-guitarist of Orange County-based sparkle*jets UK.

International Pop Overthrow arrives at Eastgate Park, 12001 St. Mark St. (near Valley View and Chapman) at noon.

The four-hour show will feature eight bands playing 30-minute sets, including Orange County-based Popdudes; Austin, Texas' Buzzie; L.A.'s Bionic Blimp; and British outfit Wonderboy. That show is free.

At 7:30 p.m., I.P.O. moves to the Galaxy Concert Theatre, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana.

The Galaxy lineup features four Orange County acts, Scarlet Crush (7:30 p.m.), Jeffrey Foskett (8), Walter Clevenger & the Dairy Kings (8:30), and sparkle*jets UK (10:30). Also performing on the bill are Big Hello (9), Teen Machine (9:30), the Masticators (10) and P. Hux (11).

Tickets to the Galaxy show are $10 ($5 for children under age 16), with all proceeds going to the Boys and Girls Club of Garden Grove. The show is sponsored by Time Warner Cable and several other area and national businesses.

I.P.O. concerts have raised more than $10,000 for various Garden Grove-based charities since 1998, Borack said.

 

 

07/11/01 - NOT REALLY A PRESS REVIEW... but really nice things said by the beautifully articulate KERRY CHICOINE on the Audities mailing list, godblessim.

Check out his bands Reciever, Kompost, Nipper & the Seaturtles, and

The new Sparkle*Jets UK CD 'Bamboo Lounge' is a giant step forward for this fun-lovin' Orange County quartet. It's also far and away the most FUN interactive CD I've come across, ever. Some of the enhanced features (courtesy of Mike Simmons and John Perry) include additional demos, pictures, a 'live' bootleg album you assemble yourself, and an MTV-ready rock video ('Hate Your Hair') among other goodies. The CD case even comes complete with its own exotic drink mini-umbrella! All in all a *very* attractive and fun package, certainly a great value for those who measure such things.

Musically, this sucker *rips*, man. Not quite as sarcastic and irreverent as their debut offering 'In, Thru and Beyond', but still cute and humorous in the best possible way, the songs on Bamboo Lounge show a band reaching for and achieving their potential as bona-fide heirs to the pop-rock throne. Mike Simmons and Susan West continue to inspire with their vocal interactions, Mike with his picture-perfect lonely surfer pop boy voice and Susan with her amazing, sassy snarl. Mike also shines on lead guitar, providing everything from off-the-rails, punk-inspired shredfests to plaintive, jazz-tinged stylings. Jamie Knight lays down an assured, confident groove on bass and new drummer Larry Doran adds a distinctive rhythmic flair to some of the newer tunes. Numerous production touches lend each and every track a distinctive sound, including flute by Candypants frontwoman Lisa Jenio and many varied instruments courtesy of multi-instrumentalist Wondermint/Brian Wilson Band member Probyn Gregory.

Some personal favorites include the opening track 'Monster' (co-written by Susan West and her young son Julian, quite possibly the first such pairing in pop songwriting history) which sets the tone for the whole album with its rocking guitars and Susan's amazing Ann Wilson-esque vocal performance. The lyrics are really cool as well (i.e. "Open your eyes, there's a monster in front of you, and she is a girl."). The song closes with a flourish of horns courtesy of Probyn. Very tomorrow. Another great tune is the Mike Simmons-penned 'Sorry' which I *guarantee* will have all of you 'sad guy' pop freaks on your knees worshipping this purest of pop masterpieces. I'm also fond of the pop-a-licious radio-friendly 'Good Morning World', again featuring oh-so-perfect vocals by Mike and sweeping band harmonies.

Additional faves include the rockabilly stylings of 'Consult Your Physician', the flat-out pop-punk rocker 'Hate Your Hair', the totally hilarious 'They Shoot Square Dancers, Don't They?', the gorgeous mid-tempo ballad 'Beautiful Girl' and the album closer, the soon-to-be-a-classic lounge anthem 'Bamboo Lounge', with its jungle screams and vibraphone accents. As much as the new Cockeyed Ghost album ('Ludlow 6:18') demands a sit-down-and-listen-to-this approach, 'Bamboo Lounge' seems almost its polar opposite, a sort of stand-up-and-dance-to-me counterpart. It's a tremendously fun record, managing to convey measured doses of humor offset with serious moments of genuine, heartfelt reflection, a refreshing balance of the best of both pop worlds. Highly recommended to all fans of pure, unadulterated pop.

kErrY kOMpOst

 

06/01 - QUOTES regarding SJUK's track from "SHOE FETISH: A TRIBUTE TO SHOES"

The Big Takeover - Most of the acts here take some of the (at times) lackluster arrangements of the originals and imbue them with a fire and passion that brings out all the best nuances of Shoes music while defining what 'power' in pop really means. Sparkle*Jets U.K. blast through "Cruel You" with a kineticism missing from the original version on Present Tense...

fufkin.com - ...the gloss of new waveyness that Sparkle * Jets U.K. apply on their knock out turn at "Cruel You".

Toast Magazine - Other standout tracks include "Cruel You" by sparkle*jets UK, who ram home the point of the song with some stinging guitar licks

babysue.com - ...standout cut is the Sparkle*Jets U.K. version of "Cruel You" (one of our favorite Shoes tracks and these folks do it RIGHT).

Orange County Register - ...includes soaring cuts such as Sparkle*Jets U.K.'s "Cruel You,"

Pop Matters - ...another fine track is turned in by sparkle*jets U.K , revving it up on "Cruel You".

 

06/01 - INTERVIEW with Susan from ROCKRGRL Magazine

by Desiree I. Guzzetta

SPARKLE*JETS UK: Inspiration and World Domination

Los Angeles power pop quartet sparkle*jets u.k. only has one album out so far, but a tribute album has already been recorded in their honor. From her home in southern California, Susan West, the group's sassy guitarsist and co-lead singer/songwriter explains the situation.

"Our debut, 1998's In, Through, and Beyond (on the band's own label, crab apple records) was a couple of years old and out next one wasn't finished yet, so we wanted to do something wacky in the interim," she says. "Mike Simmons, our other singer/songwriter, thought of it. I told him he was cuckoo. Who would play on it? He said we'd get our friends to to a tribute to us and we'd put mp3's of their songs on the album and include their web links in return." Simmons sent out an e-mail and was suddenly swamped with interest. "A couple of bands wrote songs for us since we ran out of songs for them to cover," she says proudly. The resulting tribute, I Love sparkle*jets u.k., was released on crab apple records late last year.

Music has always been a part of West's life. As the daughter of an R&B guitarist, West was literally surrounded by music at home. " There was always a drum set and some sort of guitar amp in my bedroom," she says. "My father made extra money playing different instruments for other bands, so there were instruments all over the house." However, things did not go so smoothly when father first tried teaching West and her younger brother, Chris, to play guitar. "It was a horrific experience," West says, only half in jest. "My dad got upset because we couldn't play as well as he wanted us to. I tried to explain that my hands were too little." Instead of giving up, West, a bright, funny, and focused woman, grew more determined to learn. "I stuck with it because it was fun and I could do it by myself," she explains matter-of-factly.

As children , West and her brother were somewhat isolated. They lived in a less-than-safe neighborhood and her father kept them very close to home, where she and Chris learned to entertain themselves. "We pretended to be a band and put on a show," West says. "We had song competitions where we would try to top each other." At age 12, her father finally allowed the two to take outside lessons.

"The guitar was easy, portable, and I could play it at camp," West says. She remembers performing a song she had written about menstruation for the other campers. Although the counselors stopped her mid-song because the lyrical references to swollen breasts and stained panties were deemed too crass, the positive reaction she received from her peers left an indelible mark.

Prior to the 1997 formation of SJUK (as they are commonly known) she met bassist Jamie Knight. The pair clicked musically and romantically and have been together ever since. West and Knight met Simmons through a friend who was in another band with him.

"I met Susan at a horrible gig I did with my old band, where I had decided to quit music altogether because I couldn't take it anymore. Lucky for me, Jamie & Susan arrived just in time to lead me out of darkness," Simmons recalls. Shortly thereafter, five bands assimilated, regrouped, and SJUK was born. West and Simmons adopted the band name from a pair of Gretsch Sparkle Jet guitars, which they saw and admired at a store one day. The "u.k." was added because the band seeks world domination, West jokes.

Though she has yet to buy her dream Sparkle Jet guitar, West is content with her Fender Stratocaster and the family Telecaster. "My dad owned it and traded it to me for a Charvel Jackson that never felt right," she says.

West also uses a Danelectro 12-string guitar, Fender Twin DeVille amp, a Cry Baby Wah pedal and an MXR Distortion Plus, though the pedals get less of a workout. "I use the amp distortion most of the time because simple is good. I used to have a board with six pedals. Sometimes I would hit the wrong pedal during shows," she admits, cringing slightly. West also uses heavy strings to make her fingers tougher.

"There are more musical doors open to women because the world cuts women slack," she says. "But female musicians are still the exception and the exception usually gets attention, even if that attention is unwarranted. Good songs and good shows are what it should be all about."

In addition to singing and songwriting, West balances her musical career with her responsibilities as a mother to her five-year-old son, Julian. "He's already learning drums," says the proud mom. "He wants to be our fill-in drummer when he gets older." Jules appears on the debut record, and is an occasional fixture at SJUK shows. "He is allowed to stay as long as he keeps his ear-plugs in," she says.

The band has a support system of moms and friends that help out with Jules, but West's priority right now is to play less in order to have time to balance everything. "I wouldn't have a good life without either Jules or the band, " she admits. "It's all interwoven. Jules and I inspire each other."

05/03/01 - REVIEW of the SJUK organized GRRLS GRRLS GRRLS show from the New Times Los Angeles.

by Jim Freek

Hoping to salvage what's left of our deteriorating "girl-band geek" reputation, Freek Show made an appearance at Mr. T's Bowl on Saturday night where a mess of female-fronted bands turned the club into a rowdy rock 'n' roll slumber party beginning at the ungodly hour of 7 o'clock. Among Freek
Show's most cherished memories this evening were Candypants vocalist Lisa Jenio backed by O.C. pop darlings Sparklejets U.K., the sexy piano balladry of Carolyn Edwards, garage-flavored pop from the Chubbies (whose bassist is supposedly on one of those insanely popular reality T.V. shows), the angry bitchcore of the Fire Ants, and the massive birthday cake that Phyllis Teen from Spooky Pie showed up with. During an acoustic set by coffeehouse queenpin Wendie Colter, Freek Show's request for a nasty Ted Nugent song was denied in favor of one of the artiste's more introspective numbers. Throughout the night, a bunch of guys with handheld video cameras prowled the room, a lady sitting next to a buffet table of Cuban rice, beans and chicken gave manicures, and the proverbial record geek talk bounced back and forth between how "HOT!" the new album by the Electric Light Orchestra is and how Texas Terri and the Stiff Ones blew up the soundboard the night before during their show at the Valley's premiere metal kitsch hangout, Paladino's...

 

02/01 - REVIEW of In, Through, and Beyond from Mononsterzine

Fifteen golden nuggets of creamy pop-joy, with subtle Cheap Trick, Cars and Replacements influences abound. The chunk and riffy "Above The Clouds", "the comedic super-spiffiness of "Oh Poor Me", the feel good "10 inches" and the gentle romance in the playground of "Thirteen" - all outstanding gems. Then there's the absolutely ragin' chorus of "Listen To Me", easily one of the ten best melodic moments of the year.

 

02/01 - REVIEW of I Love sparkle*jets u.k. from Blitz Magazine

Although its detractors have occasionally invoked Monkees lead guitarist Michael Nesmith's acerbic observation about "an imitation of an imitation" in reference to the loose fraternity of bands that is currently attempting to uphold and enhance the tradition of so-called "power pop" as practiced by such late 1970s-early 1980s groups as the Plimsouls, Zeros, Reruns, Pleasers and the Last, it can be successfully argued that the collection of artists that have united for this unlikely common cause are, if nothing else, passionate about their mission.

As pointed out on the sleeve notes of this collection, Sparkle*Jets U.K. garnered no small amount of attention from their peers at the July 1999 "International Pop Overthrow" music festival. So much so that twenty of them pooled their talents to produce this tribute CD to a band that they perceive as the standard of excellence within their own circles.

Do the Sparkle*Jets U.K. live up to the adulation? In view of the material covered here, there is evidence that Sparkle*Jets U.K. possess the diverse songwriting capabilities that other like-minded bands have frequently lacked. Indeed, some of the better interpretors here, such as folk/psych/Gospel stalwart Jeremy Morris ("Thirteen"), his offspring's band, the Glowfriends ("Golden"), the vocally superlative Masticators ("Real Nice Time") and the lyrically astute Ed James ("My Internet Love Song") exhibit sufficient diversity in their respective selections to further enhance not only the credibility of the subject of their adulation, but their own capabilities as interpretors, as well.

Although the occasional sign of personality shines through the remaining selections (most notably those from the Piper Downs, the Dynotones, the Dons, the Retros, the Liberal Materiali$ts, the Andersons and Tammy And The Lords Of Misrule), some of the tracks herein suffer from a one-dimensional quality, largely due to the common thread of droning guitar accompaniment in the Buzzcocks vein and/or reticence on the part of the remaining bands for whatever reasons to invoke their stamp of originality on their work.

In short, the work of Sparkle*Jets U.K. no doubt is worthy of more detailed investigation. But the twenty artists saluting them herein are best scrutinized in accordance with the aesthetic preferences of the individual.

 

 

02/01 - REVIEW of I Love sparkle*jets u.k. from Mononsterzine

I Love Sparklejets U.K. Tribute CD Okay, first off...huh? Sparkle-who? But listen, seriously, listen to this CD. These songs are good, and the fact that the SparkleJets U.K. have a tribute album is an anomaly in itself. But don't you worry about that. Leave that to the SparkleJets. This CD showcases a raw talent for writing powerful melodic pop songs in a way that few bands could showcase their up and coming talent. Their friends cover their songs. Sound weird? Well, it is. In concept, it's rather intelligent, don't you think? From David Bash's energetic "Welcome" on into the milky pop essence of "Real Nice Time" as performed by the powerpoppian royalty, "The Masticators". This is a fun CD featuring some great, songwriting, interpretations, and what seems like the best concept album in a long time.

 

01/12/01 - REVIEW of SJUK at the House of Blues, Anaheim from the Orange County Weekly

BREAKING IN THE HOB

by Rich Kane

Lit will actually not be the first band to play the new Anaheim House of Blues this Friday. Nor do first-night honors go to Big Sandy & the Fly-Rite Boys or the Tiki Tones, who played sets at a private shindig there on Jan. 10 (a party sponsored by some sort of freaky "alternative" newspaper or something). That said, let it forever be acknowledged that the First Band to Ever Play the Anaheim House of Blues was none other than Sparklejets U.K., who hauled their gear to the new House of Blues (located in the Vegas-like Downtown Disney "shoppertainment" center —also known as a mall) on Jan. 7 specifically to help the room’s sound crew deflower their mixing board. That wasn’t all the training going on: we also glimpsed gaggles of cocktail waitresses taking fake orders from random hangers-out. Funnier still, in a perfomance-art sort of way, were the House of Blues staffers who pretended to be drunken, idiotic louts by shoving the beefy, yellow-shirted security forces around and trying to leap onstage, at which points the security folks swarmed on their play-acting asses. Hey, security needs practice, too, and with upcoming shows by Social Distortion and NOFX, they’ll use it. As for the room itself, we were impressed: it’s a cozy, two-leveled club with an open floor in front of a chest-high stage; an upstairs balcony features wooden stools and church pews for seats; and it’s arranged in a square shape that guarantees great sightlines. Décor is standard House of Blues fare: lots of folk art and paintings of black blues musicians, as well as authentic-looking, cracked, peeling paint to give the joint that weathered, aged look. Sparklejets, meanwhile, pounded out their usually excellent set—we hope they’ll get invited back to play for a real crowd next time. (RK)

 

01/08/01 - REVIEW of SJUK at the House of Blues, Anaheim from the Garden Grove Journal

POP & STUFF

by John Borack

Had the chance to drop by the brand new House of Blues at Downtown Disney in Anaheim a few days ago to witness sort of a pre-opening concert by O.C. pop darlings (well, I think they're pretty darling) sparkle*jets u.k.

The band was there to play in order to help the HOB folks test their sound and lighting systems in anticipation of the club's grand opening on January 12, which will feature a live performance by Orange County-based alternative rockers Lit.

The club---which apparently will hold 1000 patrons, although it didn't seem quite that roomy to me---was obviously not quite ready to roll, as was evident by the sight of painters dabbing on finishing touches and a "Hey, is that something electrical burning?" smell.

In addition to the psuedo-concert---which saw sjuk rocking out to cuts from their fab debut album, a cover version or two (Badfinger, Electric Light Orchestra) and some new stuff (the Kiss-inspired "She May Be Nice" is a power chord fiesta)---the HOB staff put on quite the little show of their own. Security staff was being trained while the band's performance was taking place, so in addition to watching sparkle*jets, spectators were treated to the site of security guards putting their moves on people who were engaging in fake fights, pretending to hassle waitresses, slam dancing, climbing up on stage and the like. (One overzealous actor even tossed a glass of water in the face of a 300+ pound security guard.)

 

01/05/01 - SJUK the first great gig of 2000 in the Orange County Weekly.

by Rich Kane

Jan. 15 at Chain Reaction: Sparklejets UK cement a reputation as OC’s most perfect, pure-pop band.

 

11/09/00 - REVIEW of In, Through, and Beyond from Women of Mp3.com

by Jianda Johnson, from her column Cybermuse

"Get me to I.R.C./
You know she's waiting there for me"
-from "My Internet Love Song (To You)"

A cross between Redd Kross, Mary's Danish and the Wonder Stuff, they've been called geeky and clever, and we're just getting warm here! Sparkle*jets U.K. (who are actually "an American band") exchange crafty, strong lead vocals, wild, garage-esque guitar licks, and tasty, unaffected harmonies band-wide--with lyrics that actually rhyme, sans cheese. With references to kitschy-cute items of Americana like Dinty Moore Stew, images of diners and surfing monkeys, and covers of bands like Big Star and ELO, this band's prolific, and their pure power pop kicks ass (artistically, mind you!). A lyrical example from the heartbreak-ee's song "10 Inches: "That explains everything/that explains it all/of why you're such a dick to me/and why you're 10 inches tall!" Artists, heed this: these folks tour regularly, record all of their own (and other artists') materials, and run their own record label. This is pop that will live long, and prosper.

10/00 - REVIEW of I (Love) sparkle*jets u.k. (another tribute album) and its RECORD RELASE EXTRAVAGANZA!

A SPARKLING EVENING

by Drew MacDonald


I went to a record-release party last night, expecting to hear a bunch of LA pop bands play their versions of Sparklejets UK songs, as they did on the I LOVE SPARKLEJETS U.K. (ANOTHER TRIBUTE RECORD). What a surprise to find that plans were changed at the last minute, and that the assembled luminaries ended up covering Radiohead's KID A in its entirety!

Nah, not really.

As promised, most of the artists represented on that cheeky self-tribute CD showed up at Mr. T's Bowl to perform three songs each: the Sparklejets U.K. song from the record, one of their own originals and one cover from yet another LA band of their choice. To put it in the crudest possible terms, it was one big LA-pop clusterf*ck!

Anyone who has heard about the project (a band sponsoring a "tribute" to themselves and their one record to date, IN THROUGH & BEYOND) who might harbor resentments about egotistical audacity, just let it go. Last night's bash proved once and for all that it's all about the fun. They fed us some chicken kabobs, tabouli, hummus and other great Lebanese food items I don't know the names of. They showed videotaped footage of recent LA pop shows. They had party games; Adam "Ghost" Marsland won the "Pin-The-Cell-Phone On Mike Simmons" contest. And they had prize drawings; I am now the happy owner of one of those Christmas-countdown calendars where you open a little cardboard window for every day.

At any rate, it was certainly worth the risky drive through L.A.'s biggest rainstorm of the season to get there. We certainly raised a few eyebrows among the hard-drinkin'-on-a-Sunday-afternoon regulars at the venue, which used to be a bowling alley but has been converted to a nightclub with surprisingly good acoustics. I brought a couple of "civilians" (friends unfamiliar with the LA pop scene) who were duly impressed by the talent on stage and the general gaiety of the event.They even bought a copy of the CD in question.

The participating artists on the CD proper The Masticators, The Dons, Tammy & The Lords Of Misrule, Ed James, Mike Randle of Baby Lemonade, Ultraviolet Eye, Trigger Finger, Jeremy, Nipper & the Seaturtles, Wonderboy, The Piper Downs, David Koval, Kickstand USA, The Liberal Materialists, The Dynotones, The Popdudes, Glowfriends, The Retros and The Andersons. It even has a ditty from Sugarplastic leader Ben Eshbach and a spoken-word intro from David Bash (finally graduating from the CD-booklet "thanks" section to the actual disc itself!)

*Now* how much would you pay? But wait! There's more! I LOVE SPARKLEJETS U.K. (ANOTHER TRIBUTE RECORD) also includes a bunch of multi-media CD-ROM goodies, the coolest ones being mp3s of the represented bands doing their own originals -- essentially a whole 'nother compilation CD for free. There's also video clips, pix, cool liner notes by writer/Popdude John Borack and other stuff I haven't even gotten to myself yet.

You can get the CD at www.crabapplerecords.com , or probably from Bruce at
notlame.com or Jeremy at JAM. Maybe you even have an enlightened indie-friendly
store in your area.

Okay, end of plug. Congratulations and thanks to everybody who put the party together.

By the way, there are two cover versions on the tribute CD that I like better than the originals on IN THROUGH & BEYOND, but I'm not saying which ones.

 

10/00 - REVIEW of I (Love) sparkle*jets u.k. (another tribute album) from Goldmine Magazine

by John Borack


At first blush, it sounds like a wackier-than-wacky idea: a tribute album feting a band that only has one album of their own---and the band in question organized the tribute!

Hell, at second blush it sounds even sillier.

But that's part of the charm of Orange County, CA popsters sparkle*jets u.k.---and also of this disc. They (and it) are so unprepossessing, so guileless, so gosh darned nutty, that the concept somehow works. As a testament to the band (Michael Simmons, Susan West, Jamie Knight and Joel Valder) and their standing within the L.A. pop community, plenty of said community shows up to pay tribute to the 'jets, with consistently listenable and often hilarious results.

After a brief introduction by International Pop Overthrow festival compere David Bash and a cartoonish instrumental by Ben Eshbach of the Sugarplastic, the Masticators kick the disc into overdrive with their reading of "Real Nice Time" (a Susan West-penned number). Lisa Mychols sings the bejeezus out of this one, and Robbie Rist drums like a madman, leading to wonderful results. Next up is another one of the CD's high water marks, The Dons' stomping version of "She's My Fave," which is sheer T. Rextasy…very cool, indeed.

Other snappy remakes here include Tammy and the Lord of Misrule's sassy "10 Inches," Wonderboy's kinetic "Surfin' Monkeys" and Trigger Finger's loopy 'n' goofy "Dat." (If you're into smart-alecky, They Might Be Giants-styled tuneage, snap up Trigger Finger's debut, Throwing Pebbles at Her Lexan Heart, by the way.) Nipper and the Seaturtles' punk-pop classic-in-waiting "The Orange County Song" is another favorite (it's not a sparkle*jets tune, but a Seaturtle original---hey, when you organize your own tribute disc, you can bend the rules a bit, right?).

A few non-L.A. acts make stellar appearances as well, including Jeremy Morris (an adroit acoustic version of Big Star's "13," which sjuk also covered on their debut disc-confusing, no?) and Ed James (a delightful power pop take on Mike Simmons' wonderfully nerdy "My Internet Love Song to You").

The disc ends with the seven-odd minute "Sparklejets Surprise" by the Andersons, a tune so over-the-top that mere words could not possibly do it justice (loved the Korn and Wondermints references in it). It's the capper on an entertaining labor of love paying tribute to some of the kookiest (that's a compliment) musicians around.

(In addition, I Love sparkle*jets u.k. also serves as a multi-media enhanced CD-ROM, with pictures, lyrics, video clips, liner notes, Mp3's of the contributors' original tunes and songs by sparkle*jets u.k.) Available from www.crabapplerecords.com or 1442 E. Lincoln Blvd., #261, Orange, CA 92865

09/29/00 - REVIEW of I (Love) sparkle*jets u.k. (another tribute album) from O.C. WEEKLY

by Rich Kane Vol 6 no 4, Sept 29-Oct 5, 2000


On the first track of this disc, International Pop Overthrow founder David Bash observes that it takes balls to orchestrate your own tribute CD—especially if the band being paid tribute isn’t well-known outside SoCal, much less blazing up Billboard. But Sparkle*Jets UK, OC’s super-cool purveyors of perfect power-pop, prove here that they possess (collectively) super-sized gonads. They also show that their friends in the incestuous LA pop scene are clever enough to take part in the cheeky task of covering Sparkle*Jets songs, most of which appear on their one album, the superb In, Through, And Beyond. So it’s a covers thing, yes, but still a fine work all by its lonesome—in part because the original versions don’t have that foul, played-to-death aftertaste. For most people, of course, these are unknown tunes, so it won’t mean much when I tell you that the Dons take Sparkle*Jets’ "She’s My Fave" and give it a slower, groovier, bluesier spin (not unlike the slower, groovier, bluesier spin on "Revolution" that the Beatles put on the White Album), or that Wonderboy’s scrunchy guitar sheen and yelpy, freaked-out vocals on "Surfin’ Monkeys" actually match if not surpass the Sparkle*Jets’ original, or that the Piper Downs take the exuberant liberation anthem "Oh Poor Me" and turn it into a mellow, mopey ballad, or that Jeremy Morris’ cover of Big Star’s "Thirteen" should really go on a Big Star tribute album but because Sparkle*Jets did it first on In, Through, and Beyond, it weirdly (and confusingly) becomes a tribute to Sparkle*Jets as filtered through Big Star as filtered back through Sparkle*Jets. It’s a great album—the concept album of the year! But no amount of critical slobbering can equal the real deal, which you conveniently can experience for yourself Saturday night. Next, we propose a tribute album to the tribute album.

 

09/21/00 - REVIEW of I (Love) sparkle*jets u.k. (another tribute album) from a forthcoming issue of FRIDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK, a national music column (print only) and record/radio industry tip sheet.

by Ken Sharp, famed professor of pop

Who says you have to wait two or three decades until you're a stone-cold rock god before you luxuriate in the glory of your own own tribute album? The sparkle*jets u.k. may not be a household word on these shores, but the band, in actuality Orange County California residents, have enlisted many of their musical compatriots to create a tribute album to... well...themselves. But make no mistake, this isn't a vanity exercise on behalf of the group to boost their egos to the size of Mount Rushmore. Instead, I LOVE SPARKLE*JETS U.K. (Crab Apple Records) is a loving and eminently tuneful collection of twenty SJUK songs interpreted by a myriad of talented melodic pop merchants including Mike Randle of L.A. scenemakers, Baby Lemonade, The Andersons, Jeremy, Ed James, The Piper Downs, Ultra Violet Eye, The Popdudes (featuring noted music writer John Borack) and The Masticators. The unique project came together after the band's well-received set at the 1999 International Pop Overthrow festival held yearly in Los Angeles with the band tapping into their newly formed pop alliances. Making this release even more impressive is the fact that the disc is an multi-media enhanced CD ROM packed with lyrics, liner notes, video and sound clips. Original music by sixteen of the acts appearing on the release are available for your listening pleasure in the enhanced portion of the disc. Clips of SPUK 's own versions of their songs on the CD are also included. More info: www.crabapplerecords.com

 

09/01/00 - REVIEW of I (Love) sparkle*jets u.k. (another tribute album) from the Orange County Register

by Robert Kinsler, Special to the Register

ORANGE POP
O.C. INDIES WORTH A LISTEN

While Orange County is best known for bands signed to major labels (Sugar Ray, Lit, The Offspring, No Doubt), a number of others have found success traveling a more independent route.

Some of the county's brightest rising stars have noteworthy new releases.

Sparkle*Jets U.K. "I Love sparkle*jets u.k." (crab apple records) There are likely few indie bands that would defy the logic of releasing a full-length CD of their own material, and instead invite their favorite bands to contribute covers of their songs.

That's exactly what sparkle*jets u.k. did on the 20-song "I Love Sparkle*Jets U.K. (Another Tribute Record)," a bold and zany move in tune with the joyful mood of the Orange-based band.

The results of the collection are mostly good, with performances by The Masticators ("Real Nice Time"), The Dons ("She's My Fave") and Wonderboy ("Surfin' Monkeys") likely to draw the most attention from fans of power pop.

But equally strong highlights include the lush darkness of Ultraviolet Eye ("Listen to Me") and ballad magic of Jeremy ("Thirteen") and the Piper Downs ("Oh Poor Me").

The multimedia-enhanced CD-ROM includes all kinds of surprises for computer users that make this an even greater find.

 

08/05/00 - Truly AMAZING REVIEW of sparkle*jets u.k. SAMPLER (4 tracks) from musicdish.com

by Ben Ohmart

This is a very depressing cd sampler/single. For some bands you must look for the positive within, and push that in your opinion. For others, the bands/artists are good, and it's easier to find keen things to say. Bands go thru all the trouble of recording and sending you something, shouldn't the reviewer try to be a little helpful?

Well, then there are bands in the Sparkle Jets UK vein of musicianship, composition skills and production. All I can say is I'm ashamed I've never heard of this super rock/pop group. I can't believe it. I thought cream rises to the top. Then why haven't I heard these people before?!?

First, 'She's My Fave' has great guitars and voices. The male and the female blend into a power pop version of something Richard O'Brien might've written for Shock Treatment. Then 'Real Nice Time' makes a chorus of the 1 female singer, overdubbed in a smart-ass, completely wonderful rock rant, supported in the back by 'bah b-bah bahhhhhh' guys. Consciously or not stealing one of the more solid licks from The Who's Tommy, '10 Inches' rocks in some undisclosed way. Not sure what the words mean without a lyric sheet, but the playing is just (insert cool word). Each song they develop paints a specific dramatic picture, and the blend of male and female voices gives it more of an urgency than a sole complainer.

The saddest thing for all you people will be that there are only 4 songs on this sampler. A mere 11 minutes. If you're reading this, my little Sparkles, please send me or MusicDish everything you do in the future. Hell, you can write your own friggin' rave reviews and I'll just sign them. I hope you all grow up to be top of the heap, kings and queens of France, and the brightest roses in the dung heap.

 

07/22/00 - SYNOPSIS of who sparkle*jets u.k. are... from the International Pop Overthrow Festival's Program & Mp3 Radio Station

by festival organizer David Bash, I suppose.

sparkle*jets u.k. - An Orange County, CA band who combine the unabashed giddyness of bands like Redd Kross with the cool to cover songs like Big Star's "Thirteen." Leaders Michael Simmons and Susan West wear their geekiness proudly on their debut disc In, Through, and Beyond (Crab Apple Records), and they had the chutzpah to actually orchestrate a soon to be released tribute CD to themselves!. The band was also one of the few pop bands to be invited to the Eat'm Festival in Las Vegas.

and from IPO radio listing on Mp3.com:

Gotta vibe, gotta vibe, got a real good vibe... A teenage fan club kinda harmony, and some mixed genre backing vocals make the Sparklejets UK a big favorite at IPO. See 'em, hear 'em, play 'em on the radio.

07/21/00 - FEATURE about IPO, the SJUK, and other cool stuff from the Orange County Register

by Robert Kinsler Special to the Register

Register CoverJets add sparkle to IPO

Once upon a time "alternative" referred to bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Korn.

What a difference a decade makes.

Today, pop acts whose sound is the direct descendent of such seminal artists as the Beatles, Badfinger and the Beach Boys find themselves on the outside looking in as hard rock, post-punk and rap groups cash in on rage and angst.

True to the optimistic spirit that rings forth from their Rickenbacker guitars and lush vocal harmonies, the alternative class of 2000 isn't giving up hope of scoring widespread commercial success.

"We're hoping eventually someone will catch on and go with it," said Michael Simmons of Sparkle*Jets U.K. His Orange- based quartet is one of more than 125 pop outfits that will play at the third annual International Pop Overthrow, or IPO, a series of concerts to be held in Los Angeles and Orange counties, today through Aug. 3.

Added John Borack: "Pop is always bubbling under the surface; you hear it in the occasional hits by Fastball ('The Way'), Tal Bachman ('She's So High')." Borack is organizing the IPO's daylong benefit show in Garden Grove on July 29. "Eventually the circle will come back around to guitar-based pop."

Borack, of Fountain Valley, is one of modern pop's most articulate - and versatile - champions. In addition to organizing benefit concerts for IPO every summer, the manager of community and media relations for Time Warner Communications has directed concert television specials featuring pop-rock acts.

And Borack is a noted writer for several publications, including Goldmine Magazine, the Garden Grove Journal, Amplifier Magazine and Pure Pop (a popular Internet zine found at www.purepop.com). He is also a drummer, holding court behind his kit for the Popdudes.

Oh, and Borack played an instrumental role in helping launch the career of Sparkle*Jets U.K.

"We had our debut CD in only one store. John was shopping and saw it for $3. He said, 'No way,' and bought a couple. He kept one and gave the other to David Bash," Simmons said.

Bash is the founder of and force behind IPO.

"David booked us right away. Now (a year later) we have a tribute with 20 bands on it, with most of the groups covering our songs," Simmons said.

Rather than charge fans admission to IPO, Borack has been able to get more than 25 corporate and individual sponsors to donate money to the cause - and every penny raised is going toward the Guardettes of Orange County, a nonprofit organization that instills appreciation and knowledge of the arts while providing low-cost instruction in dance and drill team to area youth. In addition, several pop bands and indie labels donated CDs for the event, with all revenue from discs that are sold the day of the show going toward the Guardettes.

Although pop fans will have to drive to Los Angeles to see Orange County's Sparkle*Jets U.K. (at The Gig, 7302 Melrose Ave., Hollywood, at 8 p.m. Aug. 2) or Walter Clevenger (The Gig, 11637 W. Pico Blvd., West Los Angeles, at 11 p.m. Saturday), there are plenty of great acts from around the globe performing at the free benefit concert at Eastgate Park, 12001 St. Mark St., Garden Grove, noon-5 p.m., July 29.

07/19/00 - Media BYTE about SJUK's appearance at EAT'M from Riffage.com

Sparkle*jets uk showed us all how it was meant to be played, perfect alternative pop that is. They tore through a super fun and tasty set, laced with catchy vocal harmonies and dirty guitar rhythms. They closed the showcase at the Hard Rock Café on Thursday June 8th.

 

 

07/18/00 - REVIEW of "10 Inches" from Gods of Music

by Mark Gollihur

ARTIST: SPARKLE JETS UK
SONG: 10 INCHES
GENRE: ROCK / RETRO POP
SIMILAR: THE KNACK MEETS NO DOUBT (BUT BETTER)

This tune has almost as many hooks as a tackle box. It's got in-your-face lyrics, a charismatic singer, and a well-done retro sound with the details pretty well attended to. It's got fun harmonies, a very short but effective guitar "solo" (is it long enough to call it a solo?) It's even got a suggestive title (which ends up being merely suggestive.)

The thing that works best for me in this tune is the fact that it very possibly could have seen recorded 25 years ago, in the time of the Monkees and the Banana Splits TV show. It's got that manic feel and strong harmony vocals that made the music of that time frame so much fun to listen to. Plus, the band followed it up by producing the song perfectly to maintain that vibe -- the doubled vocals, the choice of organ and guitar sounds -- everything works together to make this tune work on several levels.

Retro is cool. So is this tune. It's fun, poppy, and well done. If the rest of this group's music lives up to "10 Inches," we might hear more from them before long.

Not sure what the modem sound is for.
(ed: it's the beginning of the song that comes after it on the album, My Internet Love Song (to You!) ... oops!)

Charisma: 9
Technical Skill: 8.5
Structure: 8
Interest: 8
Recording Quality: 8.5
Long Term Appeal: 7.5
OVERALL: 8.2

 

04/10/00 - REVIEW of In, Through, and Beyond from MUSIC SCENE, an online music mag from Switzerland. Unless you verstehen die Swietz, good luck reading this one! I'm working on getting an English translation, but I'm sure he had great things to say! Thanks Robert!

by Robert Pally Power-Pop – das amerikanische Gegenstück zum Britpop – ist in den Staaten schwer angesagt. Unser Power-Pop-Spezialist Robert Pally wird hier laufend die neusten Alben vorstellen – Platten, die in der Schweiz nicht vertrieben werden. Bestellen kann man sie direkt via den angegebenen Adressen.

Dass die Sparkle * Jets U.K. weder aus England stammen noch ihr Album nur in Japan veröffentlicht wurde und sie Scherzkekse sind, sollte in der Powerpop-Szene unterdessen bekannt sein. Noch viel zu wenig bekannt ist aber, dass das US-Quartett überdies feine Popnummern schreibt. Erwartungsgemäss führen die Sparkle * Jets U.K. auch hier ihre Hörerschaft gern in die Irre. «She Is My Fave» beginnt wie ein Led-Zeppelin-Song, bevor die Band die Kurve in Richtung Redd Kross bzw. Rezillos kratzt. Das lob ich mir, schliesslich gibt es schon genug Songs, bei denen man bereits am Anfang weiss, wie sie enden. «10 Inches» könnte ebenso gut von No Doubt stammen, wenn besagte Hitparaden-Stürmer endlich einen properen Popsong hinkriegen würden. Stampfenden Glamrock im Doppelpack werfen einem die Sparkles mit «Above The Clouds» (übrigens ein ELO-Cover) und «Dat» hin. Und wieder denkt man: Redd Kross. Die Band um die McDonald-Brüder scheint in Fixpunkt im Sparkle-Universum zu sein, aber nicht nur. «Thirteen» ist akustische Beschaulichkeit, «Girl Don't Tell Me» poppige Besinnlichkeit und «She So Mean» schliesslich barocke Gemeinheit. Wohl bekomms!

And now, a rough translation by Adriene (thanks, AD!) & a little paraphrasing by Mike:

The sparkle*jets u.k. neither come from England, nor is their album published only in Japan (that's the gag), yet they should be well known in the powerpop scene. Although not yet famous, the US quartet writes fine pop numbers. As expected, the sparkle*jets u.k. will throw you into a world of pleasure & dissaray. "She's My Fave" leads off the album with a Led Zeppelin-type riff before the band throws you around a curve into a Redd Kross / Rezillos groove, respectfully. That's what I like. After all there are already enough songs that give away from the start how they end. "10 Inches" is just as good as what comes from No Doubt. Even if in the end the pop songs manage to become neat & tidy, stamped as Glam Rock, you all need to throw one of these in your backpack. With "Above the Clouds" (an ELO cover) and "DAT", again one thinks Redd Kross (The band, which is made up of the McDonald brothers, shines in the post punk universe of sparkle*jets u.k.) Conversely, "Thirteen" is an acoustic piece of quietness & tranquility, and "Girl Don't Tell Me" is full of thoughtfulness & contemplativeness. "She's So Mean" in the end is a Boroque meanness. To your health!

Editor's Note:

I'm thinking of making up a special sticker to put on the cd's with this quote from Robert: "Throw one of these in your backpack!" ... I just love that!

 

03/30/00 - NOT REALLY A PRESS REVIEW... but really nice things said by KERRY CHICOINE on the Audities mailing list, godblessim.

Check out his bands Kompost, Nipper & the Seaturtles, and Kickstand USA

Hey there, Listening to the Sparkle*Jets UK cd entitled 'In, Through and Beyond' as I type this. If you're into power pop with classic 60's and some vintage New Wave elements, a splash o' punk attitude, and a clever-yet-scathing lyrical stance, then this is for you. Songs such as '10 Inches' reveal garage-attitude galore coupled with melodic grace, while others like 'My Internet Love Song (To You)' stick to a pure, unadulterated power pop format. 'Hair Cut Girl' is a super-fun pop romp, 'Space 36' is a rollicking white trash raised in Barstow tune that just kills and 'She's So Mean' is wonderful mellow 'guy pop' in a Beach Boys-ish vein. Great stuff from possibly the best pop band in Orange County.

I really enjoy the dual vocal interplay of singer/multi-instrumentalist Mike Simmons and singer/guitarist Susan West (Susan can *really* belt-n-scream 'em out!). They also provide backing harmonies to die for. Both are unique and talented songwriters and both contributed original songs, along with a couple of well-chosen covers (including a heartfelt cover of Big Star's 'Thirteen' and the Beach Boys 'Girl Don't Tell Me').

Highly enjoyable listening, and available at http://www.crabapplerecords.com for your pleasure (cool site with lotsa cool sound clips and stuff). Do yersef a flava n chek ittout.

 

03/22/00 - NOT REALLY A PRESS REVIEW EITHER... but really nice things said by BRUCE BRODEEN on his Not Lame Records site. He sells over 3,000 titles, all of them amazing & highly scrutinized.

by BRUCE BRODEEN Support great pop & find great pop by shopping Not Lame.

SPARKLEJETS U.K. - In Through And Beyond - Not from the UK and totally California bred, this band is a must for fans of early 701s glam pop, Redd Kross (lots of this wonderful band's influences all over this!) and Wonderboy. Full buzzy and awesome guitar sounds, choruses that beg to hit the repeat button and few songs that could be pop anthems in a more just word. Kim Fowley would have eaten this all up in 1975 and toured them with the Runaways, no doubt! This CD rocks and gets better and better with each listen. Extremely Highly Recommended. $11.50

 

02/09/00 - REVIEW of live performance at Poptopia on 2/05/00 from Alan Haber's Pure Pop website (exerpt)

Borack's Pop Spot by John Borack

There were two standout acts that these ears heard that afternoon: Orange County's newest pop darlings, sparkle*jets uk, who mix chunky guitars with a slight new wavey edge (and have two extremely talented singer/songwriters in Michael Simmons and Susan West) and Phil Rosenthal, formerly of Twenty Cent Crush.

 

01/21/00 - REVIEW of live performance at Chain Reaction on 1/15/00 from OC WEEKLY

The Road Warriors - Four rooms, six bands, five hours, 85 miles, zero speeding tickets

by Rich Kane LOCALS ONLY January 21 - 27, 2000

7:45-9 p.m. First stop: Chain Reaction, for the supremo power-pop of the fab four who make up Orange’s Sparklejets UK. Though they rarely seem to play around here and their set was much too short, we sopped up what fine tuneage we could, like "10 Inches," a big, silly (if slightly evil) grin of a song that left us bouncing around incessantly. A new thing cheekily titled "They Shoot Square Dancers, Don’t They?" ended in a glorious fury of near-metal. And "Oh Poor Me," their vengefully whiny dead-boyfriend fantasy, completely ripped. Another plus: they were blessed by club owner Tim, who came up to us and blurted, "That band is frickin’ good!" (and if you don’t trust us, kids, you can always trust the club owner). Seek out the Sparklejets wherever you can, for they’re truly a supersecret treasure.

 

 

01/20/00 - REVIEW of live performance at Chain Reaction on 1/15/00 from the Garden Grove Journal,

Sparklejets sparkle in gig at Anaheim's Chain Reaction

Pop & Stuff by John Borack

Checked out a live performance last weekend from one of Orange County's coolest new pop combos, the curiously-named sparkle*jets u.k.

Some of you may remember the S-Jets from their performance at Garden Grove's International Pop Overthrow concert last summer, where they performed their own hyperactive pop toons, while also slapping a new coat of paint on pop chestnuts from the likes of Big Star and Badfinger.

Last Saturday's all-too-brief gig (less than half an hour-boo!) was at a little place called Chain Reaction in the lovely city of Anaheim. Chain Reaction being an all-ages club, I was soon surrounded by many boppers of the teeny variety, most of whom had obviously shown up to check out some of the alternative/angst-ridden/silly bands that shared the bill with the S-Jets.

Obviously a band with a savvy marketing strategy, the gang from sparkle*jets u.k. seized the opportunity by providing each and every one of the young'uns with candy - yes, it's true - as they entered the club (even the more - ahem - mature attendees such as myself were able to snag a candy bracelet or two). Hopefully, sparkle*jets u.k.'s slightly over-the-top music would soon have the kiddies eating out of the palm of the band's hands.

But what about the music, you ask? Well, first let me tell you about Chain Reaction. Quite the interesting little place, it is. Like I said, all ages. Good sound. Bottled sodas for sale for only $1.25. Now that last part may not seem like news to many of you, but speaking as someone who has paid $3.75 for a stinkin' can of Mountain Dew at the fabled Troubadour in Hollywood, I was a happy camper. That is, until I decided to use the restroom. Not very tidy.

Anyway, back to the music. It was bloody fabulous. S-Jets Mike Simmons and Susan West (he's the big rockin' dude who is almost disgustingly talented, and she's the quirky waif with the big voice who is also talented, but not disgusting) led the band through a blastin' set of tunes, most of which are from the group's fun, fun, fun debut record, "In, Through, and Beyond."

Highlights? The classic power pop of Simmons' "She's My Fave," West's hilariously spunky tour-de-force "10 Inches" and one of her new ones, the descriptively titled "They Shoot Square Dancers, Don't They?" They also dragged an obscure oldie out of the closet, Electric Light Orchestra's late 70's album cut "Above the Clouds." (Gee, wonder how many of the Generation Ex kiddies have ever heard of E.L.O.?) And on top of everything else, the band's madman drummer whacked himself in the eye with his drumstick at one point, causing a nasty gash an some blood to spill. Now THAT'S rock and roll …

Sparkle*jets u.k. have more live dates lined up soon for L.A. and Orange County, and I would definitely recommend checking 'em out if you get the opportunity. Energetic, fun, quirky-yet-accessible and melodic pop-rock bands don't grow on trees, you know … especially here in Orange County.

 

 

12/16/99 - REVIEW of In, Through, and Beyond from OC WEEKLY

by Rich Kane

A recent release from Sparklejets U.K., a band that played this summer's International Pop Overthrow (IPO) fest, make a worthy argument for the state of local power-pop. Their album has been out for almost a year, but not until a few weeks ago did the band finally get up off their collective arse and send us a copy. And when it arrived, it was packed in a box stuffed with Necco wafers and stale Ding Dongs. Cute, or what? They know how to pay off the media, and they play great tunes! We actually heard them first in July at the IPO in Garden Grove, where they blurted out a too-charming set of unashamed, infectiously crunchy, Beatled-up pop songs about chicks and guys and stuff-nothing too heavy there, but you wouldn't want them to be. For a pop band, sparkle*jets are one of the best local practitioners, a bit tougher and less bubble-gummy than Walter Clevenger & the Dairy Kings, another band of OC popsters who apparently never felt the need to invest in an FM radio whilst growing up. As it should be, In, Through, and Beyond is weighted down with hooks swiped from the '60s and '70s-more Bay City Rollers than Beatles, but smart enough to include covers of Big Star and Brian Wilson songs. Their own tunes are often just as juicy as the ones by those sonic giants: "She's My Fave" and "10 Inches" are some of the bounciest minutes you'll ever spend. Singer/ guitarist Susan West's "Oh Poor Me" is a vengeance fantasy in which her man dumps her and then promptly gets killed in a fiery Pinto collision-that'll teach his ass-and singer/guitarist Michael Simmons weighs in with (among several nifty others) "Haircut Girl," a giddy ditty carved straight from the Alex Chilton/Jonathan Richman school.

(Rich Kane also mentioned us as one of his favorite gigs of 1999 - "Sparklejets UK/Twenty Cent Crush/ Samantha’s Favourite at Eastgate Park in Garden Grove, July 31—the three bestbands in a power-pop-packed afternoon"... thanks Rich!)

 

 

12/99 - REVIEW of In, Through, and Beyond from Mean Street Magazine

by Diana Nuygen

Could the Sparkle*Jets U.K. be any more adorable? I highly doubt it. Not only did they send the most decidedly sweet (as in candy) contribution to the Send Me Your Band's CD foundation (yes, I can, and do take bribes so keep 'em coming), and not only do they decorate their materials with monkeys (always a plus) and photo booth strip pictures, but the cheerful quartet packs the most "poptastic" (their word) punch of upbeat pop rock this side of the Irvine Spectrum. One spin of In, Through, and Beyond, their Crab Apple Records full-length, jam-packed with sweetly vocalized and brightly rhythmic melodies, and I was dizzy with excitement! It's been so long since such a sincerely sassy (but sans attitude) collective effort has emerged from the O.C. depths. All this besides the fact that no member of the group is from anywhere even resembling the United Kingdom, (they fly in from Orange) - they simply tacked the tres chic "abreev" onto their name for flavor! They're too fun for words - I just can't stop loving them. Send them friendly emails at sparklejets@pobox.com or book 'em as soon as possible for an important playing gig.

 

 

08/06/99 - REVIEW of live performance at IPO 99 from OC WEEKLY

All Organic Stuff, Straight Out of the Ground!

by Rich Kane

Eastgate Park, Garden Grove, Saturday, July 31

So maybe OC’s own Sparklejets UK got lucky by being our first doughnut of the day—they were certainly one of the tastiest. We can even forgive them for doing that Badfinger cover just as we arrived; they redeemed themselves minutes later with a Big Star song. Other than those moments, they were a fantabulous outfit of jangle-worshiping, Beatles-and-Byrds-loving, harmony-addicted pop studmuffins.

 

 

05/99 - REVIEW of In, Through, and Beyond from Alan Haber's Pure Pop Magazine www.purepop.com

BASH ON POP

by David Bash

The band’s name is Sparklejets U.K and its CD has Japanese writing all over it, but, of course, the band is from Orange County, Calif. This kind of geeky cleverness snakes through the songs on this album. Fans of Redd Kross and Wonderboy will just love this disc for its gutsy musicianship and unabashed fun. Lead singer Michael Simmons raves it up on such tracks as “She’s My Fave” and “Haircut Girl” (the latter practically lifting a verse from Jellyfish’s “The King is Half Undressed), but it’s the “look at me, I’m so silly” freshness of other lead singer Susan West that really makes this album stand out. You’ve gotta love lines like West’s “I finally worked up the nerve to ask him for a dance, he said cause I was so good in math I didn’t stand a chance.” “Surfin’ Monkeys” brings the Shangri-Las into the 90s. The band does some cool covers here, including E.L.O.’s “Above the Clouds” and Big Star’s “Thirteen.” And add Sparklejets U.K. to the list of great artists, including Tony Rivers and the Castaways, the Smithereens, Ken Sharp, and Fuzzy, who have covered the Beach Boys’ “Girl Don’t Tell Me” —it is also covered here.

 

 

05/08/99 - Recap from Wayne Resnick's Saturday Night Fiasco

Wayne hosts a radio show on KFI AM 640 in Los Angeles; a one-of-a-kind station that is allowed a transmission signal of 50,000 watts all day all night, which broadcasts beyond Los Angeles and into 14 western states during his show. He had this to say about sparkle*jets u.k. after merely playing tracks from the CD. We have since appeared live on his show twice, and he has revised his quote to "the coolest f***ing band in the whole world!"

9pm hour: The Sparkle*Jets U.K.
Oh my God! There is the coolest f***ing band in Orange County called The Sparkle*Jets U.K. But they ain’t from the U.K!! From their totally groovy album In, Through and Beyond, we heard:
l My Internet Love Song (to you)
l Thirteen

Buy it now through www.crabapplerecords.com and catch them live with Wayne on an upcoming fiasco!

 

 

Jocelyne Rorhbach from KCR radio in San Diego always has nice things to say! Check out her update list, which we found on Alta Vista.. it's pretty cool!