Arch indie groove meets operatic West Coast disco as Franz Ferdinand and Sparks finally get their freak on
There’s a moment about six minutes into ‘FFS’ high-point ‘Collaborations Don’t Work’ when you can actually hear art-rock eat itself. Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos opens the track solo on an acoustic, singing “Collaborations don’t work, I’m gonna do it all by myself”. Then, after the whole thing billows into a jazz/synthpop operetta dissecting the pitfalls that characterise the average joint rock venture, Alex swaps barbed operatic swipes with Sparks’ Russell Mael (“I don’t need your patronising!/I don’t need your agonising!”) and the two bands finally come together for a gloriously unified romp through the chorus. It’s the ultimate proof of the worth of collabs, and it would make Van McCann’s brain explode.
Not all of ‘FFS’ – a union of pop brainiacs Franz Ferdinand and Sparks 10 years in the making – merges the Glaswegians’ arch indie groove and the LA disco duo’s Gilbert & Sullivan foolishness quite as beautifully, but much of it comes close. Throwing references to Sartre, Warhol and US architect Frank Lloyd Wright into songs about shagging Harlem police officers’ wives (the sizzling ‘Police Encounters’), punching above your romantic weight (‘Johnny Delusional’) and how everyone should really just piss off (jubilant sing-along ‘Piss Off’), Franz’s pop impetus compliments Sparks’ electronic quaintness near-perfectly throughout. Lyrically, they seem to be locked in a ferocious battle of wit. Alex’s ‘Call Girl’ casts him as a lovelorn suitor begging “Why don’t you call, girl” while sidestepping the title’s prostitution connotations. Russell’s urgent ‘Dictator’s Son’ traces the story of an heir to a Middle Eastern dictatorship visiting LA and losing himself in Western consumerism and celebrity culture – “I’m into Hugo Boss,” he decides, “Jordan’s shoes…”
After ‘So Desu Ne’ crackles past on a sea of skronky disco synths, things take a turn for the trite and formulaic on the ‘Lovecats’-y ‘The Man Without A Tan’ and ‘Things I Won’t Get’ – a forlornly innocuous list of things out of the physical and mental reach of even these culture vultures. But the Nick Cave-ish gothic thump of ‘The Power Couple’ halts the slide. When two such spiky forms collide you can’t expect everything to click, but ‘FFS’ is still a wonder of gelling idiosyncrasies.
Director: John Congleton
Record label: Domino
Release date: 08 Jun, 2015