9 June 2015


Collaboration don't work - well, it is a point that has been aimed at many a project over the years.  Some people do not like the result of Metallica and Lou Reed project which was 'Lulu' (review cleverly linked here); for some people they would point to the workings of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis as a collaboration that works incredibly well.  For me, I love both of the previous mentioned projects; but I have to admit that the project I am about to review is something I have been looking forward to since I first heard of the possibility of its existence.  This is the debut album by the super-group FFS; this is the collaboration of Scottish indie dance kingpins Franz Ferdinand and the rock legends of old, Sparks.  This is a match that on paper should be surrounded by angels, both bands just seem to be suited from the beginning.  This project actually dates back to the mid-2000's, they have been recording on and off since then; but now we have an album for us to hear.  To say that before I start the review that I am excited is an understatement, so lets see how it goes....

With a dramatic flavour of the keyboard, Franz Ferdinand singer Alex Kapranos introduced “Johnny Delusional” where a song that just proves how much both bands have merged into one unit on this record.  When Sparks vocalist Russell Mael joins in on the game, this song about a man who is delusional to a fault and the song rolls over the listener with the pop sensibility that is the signature of both bands and gives you a sense of excitement that this collaboration is actually going to work.  The drama of the music and the lyrics are so refreshing to hear, it is a brilliant opening to this album.  The second song “Call Girl” has a bit of a disco flare in its heavy bass thumping, disco guitar and insanely catchy chorus hook that sticks in the brain for days after your first listen.  Neither band are dominating here, both are focused on the song, to make it the best that it can be.  This song is not about lady of the nights (which I was assuming it would be with the title), but about waiting on a girl calling back; the word play of the lyrics are exactly what you would expect from each band and it is delicious.  “Dictator’s Son” is a funny number, the OTT story about a man who flees his family and country of birth as he does not believe in the family business.  It is massively stupid, flamboyant and full of hooks and lines to snare the listener – it is fantastic, it is a brilliant number that was almost the best song of the album; but make no mistake, and this song is a towering number and really brings the best out of everyone on the album.  The band then slip into the brooding number called “Little Guy from the Suburbs” which is aiming for the dramatic and almost Hitchcock-film theme; it does not quite make it for me, it is not as gripping as the first three songs on this album but it is still an interesting number that does improve with subsequent listens.

“Police Encounters” is a song about incidents that have been held been someone and the fuzz, the policeman’s wife and being in Harlem.  It is an instant classic, it is catchy with a sense of storytelling that has been missing in music for far too long; have a killer hook that will be in your mind for the rest of your life (bom, bom, diddy, diddy, bom, bom, diddy, diddy), the group sounds gigantic on this song and you cannot get away from this song – it is the song of the album and to be honest, it will probably be the song of 2015 as well; if you do not buy the album, get this song!  So how do you follow that?  Well, with a camp and vibrant number called “Save Me from Myself” which is chiselled from the same musical vein as “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us” and “Take Me Out”.  To say it is as epic as those numbers (or “Police Encounters”) would be a lie, but it has a similar pattern that is reminiscent of both numbers and it is still a brilliant number that feels so organic and natural and you realise more and more that this is not just a collaboration, but a fantastic group making something special.  This sense of fun is also shown on “So Desu Ne” which has the lyric of the album – “Carrying a Hello Kitty Uzi”.  Just absorb that line for a few moments and consider it is mixed in with a keyboard hybrid that really should be held as a great abstract pop number for the ages.  It is strange and quirky, it is what made both acts interesting in the first place and it has a wicked underlying sense of tense working with the lyrics.  A song about a love rivalry is next with “The Man without a Tan” and the keyboards mixed in with the swagger of the guitar is brilliant.  The indie/glam rock dance vibes shows how much fun was probably had in the studio creating this song.  The layering of the lyrics and singers is so fantastic, the OTT lyrics and chorus are just another example of how well this project is working – it have everything that is great about these guys.

The ninth song is called “Things I Won’t Get” which is a lament about things that will not be achieved in life or understand by some people, it is a decent number that sounds as if it has been added to give the audience a little bit of a rest bite from the drama that comes from being so flamboyant; it is not bad by any stretch of the imagination, it is just that most of this album is so awesome that it can over shadow some aspects of the record.  Next is “The Power Couple” which at first listen seems a bit out of character for the album – but it is possibly one of the most clever songs on the album.  It is not a song designed to hit the indie disco floor, it is a pop gem which sounds as if the band have asked The Divine Comedy to join in on the party and have created a song which has a strange combination of strings, sonic sounds and an off-pace rhythm that makes it a bit uneasy on the ears; it is an incredibly interesting song with ends as if a door have suddenly opened on it, strange all round.  The penultimate song is the ironically titled “Collaborations Don’t Work”, a song when someone is saying that they are no collaborator, they are independent and that collaborations are failures from the beginning; the only way this could be more ironic is by actually making an iron ore out of their barbed words and make an ironic Eiffel tower so they can view the tongue in their cheeks from a safe distance.  The song is full of the pomp and circumstance that you would expect from a song that people who thrive on making OTT baroque rock with a disco flare.  It keeps on building and changing as it goes along to show which person (the young usurper or the old king) is currently singing – it works so well and sets us up nicely for the final track of the album.   The ending song is the charmingly titled “Piss Off”; it was the first song to be released as a promotional song on 1st April 2015 and it sounds so fuel of venom, bile and sarcasm that it fits both act perfectly.  If the gloves were off before, at this point they are standing in their underwear, swinging half a brick in a sock whilst staggering and aiming to take on the world; it is such an angry song and it is wrapped in this luscious pop rock coating that it would charm the angels from heaven and make a demon think about renouncing evil as well.  It end this version of the album perfectly. 

Yes, yes, yes!!!!  I love this record! There is moments before I put it on when I doubted what the resulting record would be, I feel like a doubting Thomas here; but I am happy to repent as this album is just full out fun.  Is it flawed, of course it is! There are a few moments which do not quite work, but that is only compared to the towering parts of this record like "Police Encounters", "Johnny Delusional" and"Piss Off" - when you have songs of that quality, you are going to have moments that might seem to be flawed but on closer inspection they are still really strong.  I love that they have followed through with this record, I hope they keep their promise that this is not going to be a one off release and I recommend it to everyone.  Quite possibly my album of 2015, it is that stunning an album.

10 out of ten - This is proof that there is a God

Top track - Police Encounters

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