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Back in February, I wrote about The Black Sparks—-middle-school punk upstarts who’ve been wowing the D.C. all-ages circuit with their electric, sweat-soaked live shows. And—-as if the gods were offering up some sort of cosmic alternative to Justin Bieber‘s freshly released, distressingly post-pubescent single “Boyfriend“—-The Black Sparks have just uploaded some gleefully youthful tunes in the form of a digital, pay-what-you-want EP, S. T. Rawberries.
The material on S.T. Rawberries isn’t new; in fact, most of these tracks were on the set list when the band played an attention-grabbing set at Fort Reno in 2010. Perennial live favorite “Mr. Panther” is propelled by a bouncy, infectious riff courtesy of guitarist Jonah Antonelli, along with frontman Andrew Salfi‘s pre-teen-Jello Biafra theatrics. The minute-and-a-half scream-fest “Big Inferno” hits even harder and boasts my vote for the all-time greatest Sparks lyric: “There once was a thing!/A crazy fire thing!”
Goofiness notwithstanding, S.T. Rawberries certainly doesn’t sound amateurish: The clarity of the mix showcases the guys’ unmistakable chops, and the four tracks are written and performed with a confidence way beyond their years. When I first interviewed the band, 11-year-old Salfi told me that the EP’s standout track, “The Sad Watermelon,” was inspired by a time when he saw some glutinous shoppers eating a gutted fruit at Whole Foods, which prompted him to write a song that figured this image as a (hand to God; haters check my notes) metaphor for “rioting.”
Still, The Black Sparks are all about the spectacle of the live show, and S.T. Rawberries doesn’t quite capture what makes them so exciting—-you kind of have to see them to believe them. Thankfully, you’ll have a chance on April 24 when they play an all-ages show at the Electric Maid in Takoma Park.
Listen to S.T. Rawberries below, or pay what you want for it here.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery