Sound — 7
At face value, the friendship between Franz Ferdinand and Sparks seems quite strange. One could look at the simple fact that Sparks have been making music before any of the members of Franz Ferdinand were even alive, but the genre difference between the two shows a gap even wider than the age gap. While Franz Ferdinand were spreading through the 21st-century indie rock scene with their dancefloor-appropriate rock, Sparks had their musical brains set to neoclassical grandiosity, as heard in their 2002 "reinvention" album, "Lil' Beethoven," as well as the aftershock neoclassical follow-ups "Hello Young Lovers," "Exotic Creatures of the Deep," and the operatic "The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman." But despite how odd of a couple they seems on paper, the two bands have had a desire to make music together for the past ten-some-odd years. And with both bands showing some fatigue in their respective sounds, the melding of the two groups - simply named FFS - couldn't have come at a better time.
The resulting self-titled album of this collaboration primarily has Sparks leading the way in terms of sound. While "The Man Without a Tan" is the only song on the album that's dominantly indie rock a la Franz Ferdinand, the instrumental contributions of Franz Ferdinand are mainly meant to provide a backdrop for the eclectic ideas of Sparks to work on top of: "Save Me From Myself" and "P-ss Off" show off Sparks' piano-driven baroque pop side; "Dictator's Son" and "The Power Couple" bear Sparks' theatrical art rock flair; and "Call Girl" and "So Desu Ne" hark back to '80s-era Sparks when they were dealing in new wave/synth-pop.
While this hierarchy is evident, the benefit of both bands collaborating is indeed a two-way street. With the low-geared cuts "Little Guy From the Suburbs" and "Things I Won't Get" sounding like ideas originally conceived as ballads for the next Franz Ferdinand album, Sparks' contributions expand the arrangements to make the songs more interesting but manage not to completely pave over the original idea. On the flip side, Franz Ferdinand's instrumental backing provides some more meat on the bones of Sparks-conceived songs like "Johnny Delusional" and "Police Encounters." However, the big highlight of "FFS" is a fit of outspoken dissatisfaction towards collaboration - aptly named "Collaborations Don't Work." Like a manic tug-of-war, the song's style constantly sways between Franz Ferdinand's range of rock and Sparks neoclassical penchant throughout its near-seven-minute runtime, being an intentionally tongue-in-cheek display of how different the two bands are.
Lyrics — 7
Much like the musical direction, the lyrical torch of "FFS," by and large, is carried by Sparks. Along with their calling card of quirky irreverence found in the unlucky-in-love jovialness of "Johnny Delusional" and the seduction of the police chief's wife in "Police Encounters," Sparks also brandish their snotty side in the face-value closer "P-ss Off" and the self-satirizing "Collaborations Don't Work," and it's easy to figure out the portrayal of a kawaii serial killer in "So Desu Ne" is fueled solely by Sparks' asserted fondness for Japanese culture. Only in a couple of cases does it seem that Franz Ferdinand's frontman Alex Kapranos got to pen the lyrics, which results in some serious moments to even out Sparks' oddness. And though the dreary setting that articulates depression and loneliness in "Save Me From Myself" isn't much of a highlight, the sober-toned "Little Guy From the Suburbs" works tangentially with the previous song "Dictator's Son" by displaying two scenes of juxtaposition - whereas "Dictator's Son" tells a story of a young man abandoning his authoritarian family in the name of Epicureanism (which wields Sparks' whimsical tone), "Little Guy From the Suburbs" is centered on a young man who came from a picturesque upbringing but still wound up cold, cynical, and sociopathic ("I am the little guy from the suburbs / But I learned to kill better than the others").
Overall Impression — 7
As strange of a supergroup FFS is, the collaborative support that Franz Ferdinand and Sparks give to each other in "FFS" helps freshen up the sounds of both bands. For Franz Ferdinand and their numerous attempts to branch out further from their home range, Sparks helps them elaborate upon their indie rock; for Sparks and their high-brow neoclassical style, Franz Ferdinand's rock elements make them more accessible and less pretentious. Though "FFS" doesn't bring forth anything mind-blowing, and isn't much more than the sum of its parts, the best thing the album does is provide a growing experience for the two bands.