A Clever Collaboration
Two critically acclaimed bands have joined forces to create art-rock supergroup, FFS. Franz Ferdinand, popular indie-rock group from Glasgow, met with the Mael Brothers of the famously eccentric American rock band, Sparks, after the prior’s debut album was released in 2004. Both bands showed a mutual appreciation for each other’s work, and decided to collaborate. Recording ceased for a nine-year period due to both bands being “swept up” by other obligations, yet in 2013, the two groups revisited the studio together. The wait has been long, however, FFS will release their self-titled debut album June 9, 2015.
At first glance, these two bands might seem entirely different. Sparks, formed in Los Angeles in 1971, is characterized by Russell Mael’s high-pitched vocals and the band’s theatrical and idiosyncratic stage presence, as well as a contrast between Russell Mael’s energetic frontmanship and his brother Ron’s complacent scowling on stage. Franz Ferdinand, on the other hand, hails from across the pond with a sound rooted in pop-infused post-post-punk. In FFS, the sounds of Franz Ferdinand and Sparks meld together quite naturally. The lower timbre of Franz Ferdinand singer Alex Kapranos’s voice pairs innately with the higher vocals of Russell Mael. Both bands’ incorporation of pop hooks and playful lyricism in their music is reflected throughout this collaboration.
The album’s songs are an account of a series of anecdotes and characters, including “Johnny Delusional,” a tale of a girl who is out of the singer’s league and “Little Guy from the Suburbs,” a story of a radical from suburbia. Ron Mael’s keyboards dominate many of the tracks while Kapranos and Russell Mael tag team the vocals. Two of the albums high points are “Call Girl” and “Piss Off.” Both tracks are infectious blends of playful pop hooks and keyboards.
The album is an exceptional collaboration between two very successful bands. At times it may seem that Sparks’ influence on the album overshadows that of Franz Ferdinand, yet that might just be the sound the Maer brothers bring out of the Scottish rockers.