F•F•S is like a great big, ice cold Slurpee on a really hot day, only with nutritional value somehow. How could you lose?
What a time to be alive.
Never before in the history of art on the planet earth have we, as humans, had such a tremendous back-catalog of music available to us.
Not just in terms of accessibility either. Sure, in this digital age, anything we could possibly want to listen to is rarely more than a click away. But the ease with which we might acquire some new sound to delight our ears is secondary to the sheer volume of music that exists.
We now have this very phenomenon to thank for an album that is a lighthouse of hope, upon a stormy sea of mediocrity: F•F•S.
F•F•S is not just a band, but a supergroup. For the uninitiated, a supergroup is defined in a Google search as “a music group whose members are already successful as solo artists or as part of other groups or well known in other musical professions. Usually used in the context of rock and pop music, the term has been applied to other musical genres such as The Three Tenors in opera.”
F•F•S is a combination of the Glasgow indiepop quartet Franz Ferdinand, and the Mael brothers (Russel and Ron), more commonly known as the genre-defying pop/rock outfit Sparks.
Some backstory on these two acts: Franz Ferdinand formed in 2002. Friends Alex Kapranos and Paul Thomson started playing together, and in pretty short order, they had managed to attract a global spotlight. Their first single, 2004’s “Take Me Out” was an immediate hit. Franz Ferdinand has enjoyed success ever since, going on to release four full-length LPs, and a handful of special releases.
Sparks formed in Los Angeles in 1971 by brothers Russell and Ron Mael.
The Mael brothers were both art school students from UCLA, who longed to augment the rock & roll landscape with their own brand of twisted intellectualism and unique sensibilities.
Fast forward 40 plus years (yikes!), and Sparks ends up being one of the most irreverent and influential bands in that time frame. With an immense and impressive catalog of music that simultaneously praises, skewers, and reinvents pop music, Sparks has earned the respect and admiration of their peers, as well as a die-hard following both at home and abroad.
The Mael brothers met Kapranos in San Francisco in the mid-2000s. They expressed their mutual admiration for one another, and made tentative plans to work on some material together. It wasn’t until this year that the planets aligned in such a way that Franz Ferdinand and Sparks had an opportunity to get into the studio together.
Was it worth the wait? I will spare anyone with a shorter attention span a lengthy wait for the answer.
Yes. Emphatically and resoundingly, yes.
F•F•S, which is the name of the record as well as the band, is a refreshingly eclectic collection of pop tunes, which manages to be daring and adventurous without pushing things so far into another dimension that things become alienating.
Over the span of 12 tracks – 16 if you buy the deluxe version – F•F•S takes the listener on a rollercoaster ride of sorts through a wonderland of pop gems.
Stylistically, each track on the album shifts into its own niche. And yet, the entire album achieves a cohesiveness that might seem implausible considering both its boldness, and the patchwork nature of the performers themselves.
The opening track “Johnny Delusional” sets the stage in requisite fashion.
A somber, solitary piano begins a self-recriminating ode to a love interest that will never reciprocate. Largely due to the protagonist failing to even make any kind of attempt. Tongue is typically firmly in cheek on this record, and Russ Mael’s perspicacity and acerbic wit are immediately on display
“Words are in my head but I can’t enunciate them clearly / Headphones on your hair, they prevent a chance to even try”
From the opening despondence of “Johnny Delusional,” to the pure sleaze of “Call Girl” to the contrapuntal exuberance of “Sõ Desu Ne” to the epically meta “Collaborations Don’t Work,” F•F•S is a wonderfully satisfying musical tome completely from out of left field.
It’s kind of like the musical equivalent of that time you finished viewing Bryan Singer’s “The Usual Suspects.” You knew you wanted to see it, but when you walked out of the theater, you said to yourself: “goddamn, that was really good,” with the kind of genuine surprise that is sadly far too infrequent in this life.
F•F•S is on tour right now, and will be at The Observatory OC on Wednesday, Oct. 14. This is the closest they will be to San Diego, and in my opinion, would be a bargain at twice the price. If you dig the record, do yourself a favor, and go to the show. I know I am.
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