Album Review: FFS – FFS

By on Wednesday, 10th June 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

FFS album coverI think it’s safe to say that FFS, the supergroup formed by the merging of Noughties Glasgow indie royalty Franz Ferdinand with Seventies Los Angeles brother duo Sparks, wasn’t something anyone could have predicted. I’ll be the first to admit that I was extremely sceptical about the collaboration. I mean, really, what on earth would possess human pogo stick, heartthrob and showman Alex Kapranos to want to share or even give up lead vocals duties altogether, much less to Russell Mael, who’s most famous for his theatrical warblings on ‘Amateur Hour’, and nearly a decade before his birth? Clearly, the aim of FFS as an entity is to merge the two groups’ creativity and wit, and their eponymous debut album as a supergroup feels nearly seamless, as if they’ve been recording together for years. However, as an album, ‘FFS’ seems pretty directionless. (Which is fine for an art rock record. Ask Talking Heads.)

The LP’s first two songs are peerless. A cheeky little ditty taking one that age-old dilemma of not feeling one is in the same class as the girl you fancy, ‘Johnny Delusional’ also handily fits in the cold reality of technology in the world we live in into the story. It’s infectious as all hell and won’t leave my head. ‘Call Girl’ is the brand of pop sleaze that we have come to know as signature Franz Ferdinand, and its disco bass thuds and glittery synths are nothing short of mesmerising. In the end, you’re left not sure if the song is actually about a professional call girl or if the protagonist is just so desperate to see the object of his desire again, so ready and willing to shower her with gifts and affection (“I gave up blow and Adderall for you / so I’d have dough and spend it all on you / so call, girl / come on and give me a ring”). Intriguing.

‘Piss Off’, the first single released before the album was released properly to the wild, is a funny one showing both groups haven’t lost their individual techniques in drollness, with its pop chorus (more Franz) and its verses (more Sparks). ‘The Man Without a Tan’ is a footstomper of a track, exemplifying the supergroup’s talent for writing an engaging story into a pop song. I can totally see this one being fun to watch live, as everyone gets into the act singing along at the start and the finish.

The title of ‘Save Me From Myself’ is laughable alone by itself, but then one has a listen to the song itself and can’t help but internalise its cabaret-style theatrics. It seems that FFS sensed the public’s scepticism for this supergroup in ‘Collaborations Don’t Work’, but you can’t help smiling to the words, “Mozart didn’t need a little hack to chart / Warhol didn’t need to ask De Kooning about art / Frank Lloyd Wright always ate à la carte / wish I had been that smart” – ha!

Far less pop are the authoritative ‘Dictator’s Son’ and the group’s ‘E-Bow the Letter’ entry, ‘Little Guy from the Suburbs’. Meanwhile, although the freneticism of ‘Police Encounters’ is admirable, the song is a bit all over the shop, and so is what I’m guessing is a nod to Sparks’ massively popular album ‘Kimono My House’, ‘So Desu Ne’. By the time you make your way down the tracklisting, chances are you’ve already gotten a raging headache: ‘The Power Couple’, anyone? I’ve always respected Sparks for the inventiveness they’ve brought to music, but some of their back catalogue seriously confuses me, so maybe because I’m just not as massive of a Sparks fan or I’m not really an art rocker, I don’t take well to these?

The problem with this album is not with the ideas, as there are many thrown around here on ‘FFS’, some very good, some middling but very out there. The question that hangs in the air now, though, is whether Franz Ferdinand in their original form still has legs, or if this newer entity FFS is the far better proposition to continue with. Franz’s fourth album ‘Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action’ didn’t fill me with a huge sense of confidence for them going forward, so we’ll have to see if this injection of creativity from the outside was the just the kick in the arse they needed. Or not. In any event, ‘FFS’ is weird and wonderful, and if you’re okay that those two words don’t necessarily describe the same track, then maybe you’re open-minded enough to enjoy this album.

6.5/10

‘FFS’, the self-titled debut album from the supergroup merging the talents of Franz Ferdinand and Sparks, is out this week on Domino Records.

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