Months ago I heard about Franz Ferdinand and Sparks (FFS) joining forces, and I was excited and worried. I wasn't surprised as I was aware that Franz were big fans of the brothers. However, when two of your favourite bands get together, it does create internal turmoil. Half of you cannot wait to hear what exceptional music they produce together, but the other half worries you've already built them up too much, and it could end up being a musical flop. Then they released a short video on YouTube called The Domino Effect, which was an excerpt of the song 'The Power Couple', with an amusing video. I was relieved.
It works because they are all clever and nerdy about music. It's odd that a 'young' indie band from Glasgow can create such sweet music with a keyboarding duo from LA, who have been around for 40+ years; but they have. What they have done, is improved upon each other's work. Franz Ferdinand have now lost their seriousness and have embraced satirical whimsy. The Sparks are now exploring with even more sounds. This is what they've produced.
Johnny Delusional: An obsessional love song about someone punching above their weight, something most people can emphasis with, which sounds a lot like how pop used to sound years ago. The music video is mind-bendingly interesting and funny, but that might be partly because I always enjoy looking at Ron. It is however, a perfect metaphor for their album, as you don't know what's coming next.
Call Girl: This has Franz in its roots, but can't help but think it sounds similar to when Duran Duran reunited and made an album 9 years ago, with the electro, pop-rock showing through. Very clever lyrics, with the title insinuating its about a prostitute, but actually subverts that for another awkward love song. "Why won't you call, girl".
Dictator's Son: A very urgent song from Russell, which is very much a Sparks song, with its satirical lyrics. But improved upon with the vocals from Alex, giving it another interesting level, and the influence of drums.
Little Guy From The Suburbs: A stripped back song, with both singers donning deep voices, giving it a very different feel to the previous songs. It's creepy, and I think even a bit Bowie-esque. It's a nice opportunity to take a breath from the outlandishness. Very good acting in their voices, and you can feel your mood take a drop with them.
Police Encounters: A very art-pop song in sound, as usual from Franz, but laced with lyrics one could easily recognise as Sparks, about having sex with a policeman's wife. Lovely.
Save Me From Myself: Sparks through and through. It has the mix of keyboard sounds, and it tells a story in both the lyrics and the music. However, because of that, it perhaps gets a bit lost on the album. However, bravo to Alex for trying to keep up with Russell's voice as it travels up and down.
So Desu Ne: There are so many disco synths and other effects you almost imagine you're wearing florescent clothing. Probably not much Franz in this song, but I do like the lyrics “Check your blood pressure, Gonna eat your beans and eat your leisure”. It's catchy, it's different, and what more do you want?
The Man Without A Tan: The opening notes put me in mind of The Cure's Love Cats, and that feeling is echoed through the song. This is a great example of both their influences coming together; Sparks with their lyrics, and Franz with their instrument. There are a lot of elements, but they work together. There's rock, pop, 80's, and a few orchestral moments just to give it an artistic flourish.
Things I Won't Get: A lovely list of the things they want, but can't have, and it is a beautiful song that puts a smile on my face. It's just very innocent, where it's not overloaded with music, and you actually get a sense of what they're like. Plus, their harmonies are sweet.
The Power Couple: Those opening notes are the first any of us heard from the 'super group', and this is not how I thought the song would feel. I like the two singing at each other, and it sounds like two different things colliding together. It is a great song, with a hint of the two groups, and a touch of Nick Cave. I've also noted how it sounds like a song called 'A Gory Demise' from Creature Feature, mainly due to its rhythmic, regimental beat.
Collaborations Don't Work: This is the best song on the album. If you want a song that has the sounds of both groups in it, then this is it. It's a brilliantly clever song, with their two sounds warring against each other, with each singer taking swipes at the other. It's a very witty song in concept, musically and lyrically. It's an operetta. Lyrics such as "I don’t need your patronising, I don’t need your agonising" are lovely, if you know what I mean? However, they come together to prove that collaborations do work, and create a glorious union for the end of the song.
Piss Off: As a misanthrope, I always wanted a song like this. Coming after Collaborations Don't Work, it's almost as if they're telling people who didn't think this union would work, to piss off. It's a jolly song, were you can imagine everyone cheering the words 'Piss off!'. The lyrics are sophisticated and acerbic, and the music is top-notch; it's another example of how they have come together. Again, they're great at acting, and the anger gleams through their voices. I love singing along myself. It would be a great point end to the album, but I got the deluxe version, so then they have to come crawling back for an encore.
So Many Bridges: A song which sounds like the mental turmoil of an agonised person, but despite its repeated message, it's a catchy song, and it has got very good lyrics. I do very much like the jazz elements, which have again been mixed with a retro pop vibe. It does slightly put me in mind of Eurythmics, but I'm still not sure why.
King Of The Song: This is a song I could imagine on either a Sparks album or a Franz Ferdinand one, which signifies a job well done. Again, another song free of too many sounds, and a very good example of how to do a pop song well, but then made just that bit more fun.
Look At Me: I like the progression in this song, and I do love Alex's voice in it as well. It has satirical lyrics, where it is essentially begging someone to look at them, in a swipe at modern times. There is again a very 80's feel to this song, which goes well with the twang of the bass.
A Violent Death: I thought the fourth song was creepy, but it sounds quite delightful compared to this. The spoken words by Alex makes it sound like an excerpt from thriller movie, with a brilliant score behind it, featuring a nice mix of piano and keyboard. It makes you uneasy. It's unlike anything I've heard before, and I just love that.
It doesn't happen often, but you can tell listening to the album that they really had fun making it, which shines through. It's nice to listen to a collection of songs, and know that they focused more on enjoying themselves than anything else. It's unexpected and delightful, and you have no way of knowing what sound is coming next in the song, let alone what they next song will be like.
They should be very proud, and it's a shame that it has taken 10 years for this beautiful music to have been made, since the ideas conception. I would hope for more in the future, but I think that's unlikely. I will just continue to enjoy it, and I will treasure the album for many years.