In case there was any doubt what FFS -- the supergroup built from new-new wavers Franz Ferdinand and new wave pioneers Sparks -- would sound like, their eponymous debut album contains a handy, tongue-in-cheek suite of songs called "Collaborations Don't Work."
In true Sparks-ian fashion, FFS proves its own premise wrong by crafting stunning evidence of a collaboration that does work. The opening verse -- "Mozart didn't need a little hack to chart / Warhol didn't need to ask de Kooning about art / Frank Lloyd Wright always ate a la carte / Wish I had been that smart" -- is textually self-loathing and artistically triumphant. How meta is that?
Don't worry, though. The group camouflages all that cerebral tinkering with plenty of upbeat, new wave-inspired music. The first single "Johnny Delusional" works in a similarly clever way. The music is sleek, combining Franz Ferdinand's stylish, guitar-driven pop with the dramatic synth riffs that marked Sparks work for years. And it makes the tale of a guy falling for a woman out of his league even more endearing, with lines like "Some might find me borderline attractive from afar."
Though Sparks was formed in 1971 in Los Angeles and Franz Ferdinand arrived in 2004 from Glasgow, Scotland, they fit amazingly well together on "FFS" (Domino), as if they really were one band. The lyrical ideas reflect Sparks' love of pushing the envelope, especially in songs like "The Man Without a Tan" and "Little Guy From the Suburbs," while Franz Ferdinand's fully formed band sound, which impressed rockers and hipsters alike with the breakthrough hit "Take Me Out," gives those wild ideas a bit more heft.
Those ideas come together best in "Police Encounters," with its upbeat, elegant synth opening that plays off descriptions of police actions in Harlem, as well as falling for a policeman's wife. It's another example of FFS making seriousness sound like fooling around.
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THE GRADE B+
BOTTOM LINE The unexpected marriage of Franz Ferdinand and Sparks yields the sly, synthy debut you'd predict.