Sparks fly as pop veterans team up with Franz Ferdinand

13th June 2015, Comments 0 comments

When slick Scottish rockers Franz Ferdinand met Californian pop veterans Sparks in 2004 they immediately clicked and worked on a couple of songs. They were shelved until a couple of years ago when a chance meeting brought the bands back together.

The result is a supergroup called FFS and a 47-minute, 12-track album recorded over two weeks last autumn in London and mixed in Texas, in which the six-person strong band jokingly attempt to prove that "Collaborations Don't Work".

At least that's what they claim in the epic 6:42-minute title track, which goes through pop, cabaret, folk and Eurodance moments.

But if the title was meant in seriousness, FFS has obviously failed if judged by the praise that has poured in for the album released on June 8.

The album -- also called FFS, an acronym for the two bands' names put together but also meaning "For Fuck's Sake" -- opens on single "Johnny Delusional", a pop dance-floor hit of unrequited love.

Franz Ferdinand singer Alex Kapranos and Sparks vocalist Russell Mael alternate and mix their voices to a disco bassline to tell the story of a man pining for a woman who doesn't even know he exists.

"Though I want you, I know I haven't a chance," they croon together.

If overall the two bands complement each other, some songs seem to bear the overwhelming mark of Sparks' synthpop and quirky lyrics such as "Dictator's Son", whose title character travels to Los Angeles and is in no hurry to return home and try to overthrow his father, or "Save Me From Myself".

Franz Ferdinand's influence seems more pronounced on tracks such as "Call Girl", "Police Encounters" and "The Man Without A Tan", mostly because the bass and drum lines are more obvious.

The final song, "Piss Off", sums up the spirit of the album: a cheerful pop song about not caring what other people think of what one does.

Sparks, formed in the early 1970s by brothers Ron and Russell Mael, are best known for their 1974 glam rock hit "This Town Ain't Big Enough".

They went on to work with disco supremo Giorgio Moroder and hinted at Eurodance in their 1994 track "When Do I Get To Sing 'My Way'."

But on the last several of their 22 albums, Sparks have produced a simpler, rawer pop sound, with younger brother Russell's falsetto voice supported solely by Ron's synthesisers.

Pop rock combo Franz Ferdinand sprung to the music scene with their 2004 post-punk hit "Take Me Out". The song's mixture of catchy guitar riffs, a disco beat and broken rhythms was influenced in part by Sparks.

With a career spanning nearly five decades, Sparks are no strangers to working with other artists, as they have most notably recorded songs with French pop group Rita Mitsouko and Japanese electro-pop combo Pizzicato Five.

The supergroup is planning an extensive tour of Europe, starting with a sold-out gig on June 16 at the Arts School in Glasgow.

FFS will also play a string of summer festivals including Glastonbury, closing in September with an appearance at the inaugural European edition of Lollapalooza in Berlin.


© 2015 AFP

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