When Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos first announced his band’s intended collaboration with ’80s psychedelic popsters Sparks at the start of the year, it’s safe to say that more than a few eyebrows were raised. Supposedly recording together since the mid-’00s, the outlandish Californian siblings seemed like unlikely sparring partners for the suave Scottish indie rockers, but if twin project FFS is a novelty, it is certainly a well orchestrated one.
Harmonious, expressive and often hilariously camp, the self-titled LP fully embraces the tongue-in-cheek characteristics of both bands, each borrowing from the other’s respective attitudes towards dance music, penchant for drama, and appreciation of the unconventional, in forming a strong, interchangeable bond based around the simple principle of ‘give-and-take’. Wonderfully theatrical pop gems like ‘Call Girl’, ‘Dictator’s Son’, ‘The Man Without a Tan’ and the impossibly catchy ‘So Desu Ne’ – a song that almost single-handedly justifies this ambitious project – are notable in their mutually stylistic exchanges, FF seemingly succumbing to the avant-garde charms of their pop-oriented elders.
In true collaborative fashion however, the pendulum then swings towards the smooth, more acute sounds we have come to equate with the Glaswegian foursome. Reflective tracks like ‘Little Guy from the Suburbs’, Save Me From Myself’ and ‘Things I Won’t Get’ add greater depth and insight to the record, Sparks’ once ecstatic piano symphonies sounding notably more austere to fall in line with the style of their stoic counterparts. Apart from some intriguing synthesis though, the real appeal of FFS as a record is found in its brilliantly self-deprecating undertones. The sarcastic nature of tracks like ‘Piss Off’ and the ingenious ‘Collaborations Don’t Work’, together with the playfully whimsical lyrical content, give the album a distinctly brazen charm, the group’s wittily abbreviated title drawing a further smirk. Ironically the initial implausibility of the project has induced its greatest charm, and although the album gives the impression of a glorious one-off rather than a long-standing partnership, this most audacious of collaborations has most definitely come up trumps.