FFS – FFS
While news of a collaboration between Franz Ferdinand and Sparks was unexpected, it’s hardly illogical. The Brothers Mael have always been up for new angles to keep their Sparks fresh, and they’re also no strangers to the PR hook (for instance, I’m sure their film version of The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman will be out any day now). Franz Ferdinand punches the click-bait ticket nicely – they’ve never made a secret of their admiration for Sparks, and the Scots dandies have been straining for years to break free of the stylistic shackles imposed by the runaway success of their decade-old debut.
The inevitable question – which band’s sound takes precedence? – is almost moot since there’s not that much distance between the arch humor and nu-disco beats of both contributors. It’s easy to picture either crew penning the line “I gave up blow and Adderall for you,” on “Call Girl.” If anything Sparks’ vibe is foregrounded, thanks to Russell Mael shouldering the bulk of vocal leads (Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos mainly provides counterpoint and trades the occasional verse) as well as a healthy dose of Ron Mael’s grand piano.
Not coincidentally, two of the standouts – “Save Me from Myself” and the fabulous closer “Piss Off” – seamlessly integrate Franz’s guitar crunch and insistent backbeat into the proceedings. The richest dose of wit comes on the six-plus minute meta-suite “Collaborations Don’t Work,” which includes Kapranos’ quip, presumably directed at the three-decades-his-senior Mael, “I ain’t no collaborator/ I’m a partisan…if I ever need a father it won’t be you, old man.”
It’s unrealistic to expect a return to the glam rock swagger of Sparks’ mid-70s UK chart toppers like Kimono My House, the albums mainly responsible for their enduring overseas stature. If anything FFS draws more from their 1979 Giorgio Moroder-produced Euro-disco turn No. 1 in Heaven, which is probably just as much of a touchstone to acolytes like Franz Ferdinand.
In the final analysis FFS is a worthwhile record that stands up to the recent work of each of its source bands; still, it feels like a missed opportunity for not fully igniting the, um, spark inherent in its concept. The best news is that FFS plans to tour this material – the European festival circuit this summer, tentatively followed by some fall stateside dates. It’ll be worth the price of admission to watch Kapranos and Mael smile and wave at the crowd in unison while chanting “Piss off!”