http://wonomagazine.blogspot.nl/2013/09/right-thoughts-right-words-right-action.html) Franz Ferdinand surprised me completely with a collaboration with 1970s art rockers Sparks. A new album after two years is not so unusual, a total merger of two bands is. What kind of music does this bring? I'll get to that. First to set the stage.
Readers of WoNo Magazine in 2005-2006 became desperate of my singing the praises of the band's first album, singles, b-sides and live show, followed by the hardly any less brilliant second album. After that things became quiet. Three years and four years a new album took Franz Ferdinand. So two years for a new album is fast.
Sparks however is a band that made me itch in the 1970s. The high voice of Russell Mael in the band's two NL hits, made me very nervous, although I liked 'Amateur Hour'. The band sort of disappeared from my horizon after that, although I was faintly aware of its existence. The notification that my second favorite band of the 00s, merged with Sparks gave reason for considerable concern. It's time to own up.
The first listen on Spotify was no joy. I didn't even sit through the album. Now that doesn't say much. At first listen of new work by old favorites I nearly never shout for joy. I just forgot about it for a while and bought the cd any way, to give it a real spin. This is where this review really starts.
FFS has started to draw me in. Franz Ferdinand is very high up on my list of personal favorites of the 00s bands and after that of all times, so I allow myself to judge the band's judgment. If Fra Fer wants to work with Sparks then something must be right, right? How perfect the mix between the two band is, is shown in opening track 'Johnny Delusional'. The Fra Fer drive blends with the nervousness of Sparks and both Alex Kapranos as Russell Mael shine in the singing.
Where in the first and second listening session I thought that Sparks was holding Franz Ferdinand back the whole time, as if a break was put on the drive, sound and pace of the songs, in the later sessions I started to discover what is given in return. A whole range of subtleties in keyboard(sound)s and a lot of singing that is wider and more varied can be found on FFS. With each spin I discovered more and more. Some brilliant, other details a bit over the top like the interludes in 'Dictator's Son'. The kind of musical jokes I can do without, but can live with when the rest is o.k.
The least known Franz Ferdinand song may be the cover they played of De Kift called 'Heisa-ho'. The funny thing is that the "pom-pom-diddy-diddy" part in 'Police Encounters' reminds me straight away of the intro of De Kift's 'Nauwe Mijter'. It's not a copy, far from, but the ghost of the song is there. One of the songs in which the influence and irateness of Sparks comes out best. Another song where the brake seems applied, but I was wrong. It's just different from what I would expect. And those keyboards!
One of the brilliant songs on FFS is 'Little Guy From the Suburbs'. A totally dressed down song, think 'Eleanore, Put Your Boots On' and then a bit more mysterious. The keyboards here are brilliant, as is the vocal melody. A song of total constraint, that allows all the beauty to come out and just shine and then shine some more. The little extras that are played out through the songs make for an interesting build up also. A silencing song that only begs listening.
Taking in the whole album, I'm still running into the fact that Russell Mael's voice is quite irritating to me. It's obviously 40 years older and Mael has to work hard to hit the high notes. Hence the album takes me here and there, as it is not all roses and sunshine as far as I'm concerned. Some of the works make me quite happy, with some I have my doubts. The claim that on this album two bands really mix is correct. Both have brought their stamp to FFS and have given and received some. Time will tell where FFS and I will really go, but after the first shock I have found my way into the album and continue to do so. There is hope and enjoyment so far. Things may just work out fine in the end.
You can listen to 'Johnny Delusional' here:
Look one step further and there's a whole live show on You Tube.
or buy at Bol.com