ALBUM OF THE WEEK
A long time in the making as well as a complete surprise on its arrival, the self-titled debut from FFS — the collaboration between Franz Ferdinand and Sparks — is the work of two great, and distinctive, acts at the top of their game.
In fact, FFS works so well because these groups aren’t carbon copies of each other. Over the years, Sparks brainy shape-shifting has touched on glam and new wave, two of the styles that were most influential on Franz Ferdinand’s suave dance-rock, but that’s just the tip of their musical iceberg.
What the bands do share — jaunty wit and a flair for indelible choruses — gives FFS plenty of fertile common ground. These songs are inspired, even-handed combinations of all of their strengths, whether Ron and Russell Mael lend a dash of weirdness to Franz Ferdinand’s spiky hooks, as on “Call Girl,” or the Glaswegian outfit adds some heft to Sparks’ flights of fancy on the satirical “Police Encounters” or the hyperactive “So Desu Ne.” FFS’ strongest moments bring passion to its abundant cleverness.
Somewhat perversely and sometimes poignantly, the supergroup is at its best when singing about different kinds of solitude. “Piss Off,” the first song Sparks sent Franz Ferdinand back in 2004 after the release of their debut album, is a cheerfully antisocial anthem for those who’d rather be alone. “Collaborations Don’t Work”‘s self-referential duet turns into a duel, with Alex Kapranos and Russell Mael trading barbs like “I don’t need your navel gazing/I don’t like your way of phrasing.”
However, the best showcase for their vocals is the brilliant opening track “Johnny Delusional.” At once grandiose and self-deprecating, it’s a vivid portrait of unrequited love that combines Kapranos’ smooth baritone and Mael’s anxious counter tenor like a juxtaposition of fantasy and reality.
Similarly, FFS boasts so much personality that character sketches like “Dictator’s Son,” which tells the story of a despot’s offspring who is more into creature comforts than tyranny, also rank among the standouts. A near-perfect blend of Sparks and Franz Ferdinand’s skills, FFS is a collaboration that works very well and offers just about everything a fan of either band could want.
Release Date: June 9, 2015 Duration: 01:03:00
Track Listing (favorites in bold)
- Johnny Delusional
- Call Girl
- Dictator’s Son
- Little Guy From the Suburbs
- Police Encounters
- Save Me From Myself
- So Desu Ne
- The Man With a Tan
- Things I Wont Get
- The Power Couple
- Collaborations Don’t Work
- Piss Off
- So Many Bridges
- King of the Song
- Look At Me
- A Violent Death
Energetic Quirky Tense/Anxious Whimsical Brooding Campy Fun Humorous Ironic Irreverent Stylish Volatile Brash Brittle Carefree Celebratory Exciting Gleeful Literate Playful Silly Theatrical Urgent Witty Wry Confident Rousing Sexy Lively Rambunctious Raucous Sardonic
[ review by Heather Phares ]