Scotland - Full Moon 231 - 07/02/15
Domino Recording Company / Playground
"Collaborations don't work" FFS proclaim on their debut album's penultimate song. For over 6 minutes they keep elaborating upon this concept, repeating it as a mantra while the song jerkily shifts between a myriad of styles. The songs lyrics capture every fear associated with supergroups like FFS, preemptively engaging the criticism the project might receive. Fortunately the group avoids the pitfalls represented by the song and the song itself is immensely enjoyable. This collaboration does indeed work.
FFS is a supergroup consisting of Franz Ferdinand and Sparks. The former was one of the bigger bands of the post-punk revival of the early 00s. The latter is an enduring cult act who enjoyed a short period of greater success in the 70s glam era. Though this might at first seem like an unlikely partnership, these two bands have quite a lot in common. They share a detached, ironic demeanor and penchant for quirky pop music. The first song Franz Ferdinand ever rehearsed was a cover of Sparks Achoo. Since the early 2000s, Sparks have had a creative revival, constantly providing great albums and even a radio theater play about Ingmar Bergman for Swedish radio.
The team-up seems to slightly favour the older band more than the younger, both lyrically and musically, but not to an unnatural degree. Classical piano, synth pop, glam rock and funky post-rock combine in a way that seems natural and comfortable for all involved. A slight dip in quality for a couple of songs toward the middle of the album does not hinder this from being a very good collection of songs. Having both bands vocalists sing on each track proves a wise decision in securing the band having its own sound. Russel Mael's intense tenor/contra-tenor meshing well with Alex Kapranos more mellow baritone.
Humour flows throughout the album, from the fear of rejection in "Johnny Delusional" to the aforementioned meta-humour of "Collaborations Don't Work". The humour often reflects desperation and insecurity, making more somber songs like "Little Guy from the Suburbs" and "Things I Don't Get" not seem out of place. Theirs is a world filled with futile masculinity, unreceptive partners and scary power couples.
Fear is a driving factor throughout the album. And ultimately there was a fear that this would be a sad album. An album by a washed up old cult act joining together with younger fans in a vain attempt to capture former glories.
Collaborations don't work
You start off deferential
And strangely reverential
Fortunately this album is quite the opposite. As joyous and as irreverent as album closer "Piss Off", this is an album of two restless bands bonding together as equal partners.
Copyright © 2015 KKS (a.k.a. Kjetil Kvale Sørensen)