ffs

I’m not entirely sure who this album is for. At my least charitable, I imagine Sparks devotees who cry foul at the idea of the brothers Mael joining forces with a bunch of chart-bothering whippersnappers. I picture Franz Ferdifans who think it’s sweet that the Glaswegian quartet are helping out these funny looking granddads. This is not a calculated bid for mid-career relevance or latter-day visibility – only if this had come out eleven years ago, when the collaboration was first floated, would this have been classed as career suicide or bandwagon jumping.

The propulsive Weimar cabaret funk of ‘Dictator’s Son’ outlines the tearaway offspring of a despotic regime, whose interests lie far from the family business – “I’m into Hugo Boss, dental floss…” Mael and Kapranos list in glorious monotone. “Instagram, bands who jam…” Elsewhere, the irrepressibly bouncy ‘The Man Without a Tan’ skewers wild western masculinity, depicting a gang of terrified cowboys whose “rugged handsomeness is no match for” the titular pasty out-of-towner.

There are missteps – ‘Little Guy from the Suburbs’ is an ill-advised acoustic Morricone detour, which almost self-parodically rhymes “martyr” with “Sartre”. Likewise, ‘Save Me from Myself’ is the only moment where FFS collapse into predictability – “You could have it so much better,” it practically screams, “if you Kimono My House.”

That said, FFS is still a savvy move for both bands, merging their respective cult clouts into one six-headed hydra of decidedly warped pop music. The miracle is that neither act loses anything in translation, their respective arch ambiguities remaining in spades.

With both bands having self-produced their most recent efforts, the wisest decision FFS made was letting someone else behind the boards. John Congleton, fresh from working on the most recent St. Vincent and Swans LPs, is the perfect middleman between both bands. Sparks hasn’t sounded this pop-friendly since the late seventies. Franz Ferdinand has never sounded this wilfully odd.

Your enjoyment of FFS will hinge on how much of the older band’s whimsy you can take – there are bound to be people for whom a collaborative album trailed by an impish multi-part six-minute single entitled ‘Collaborations Don’t Work’ was designed to irritate. Hell, there have been days when I’ve not been able to make it to the end of this album. Nevertheless the project never sounds like Franz Ferdinand aping Sparks, nor Sparks mimicking Franz Ferdinand. For the most part, FFS just do FFS, and on the right day, it’s a joy.

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