FFS: Can it really work when bands come together?
Collaborations between artists have always been commonplace, whether it's a duet between singers or that well-established pillar of overblown ambition, the supergroup. Usually though these collaborations are one-offs – a single here, an EP there – it's far more rare for two bands to unite for an entire album, but that's exactly what Glasgow indie types Franz Ferdinand and quirky L.A. pop duo Sparks have done with their new project, the wryly titled FFS.
Although they've been releasing records for an incredible 45 years, Sparks – a.k.a. brothers Ron and Russell Mael – are still a bit of a niche act and on face value they might seem an odd choice for a collaboration with Franz Ferdinand, but it's not as random as you might think. In fact, this is an album that has been in gestation for quite a while now; the two bands first started discussing the idea of working together as far back as 2004, just after the release of Franz Ferdinand's eponymous debut LP.
The upshot of this album's long road to existence is a record that actually sounds really well crafted; this isn't some lashed together afterthought, the interplay between vocalists works incredibly well, especially on tracks like 'Call Girl' and the album's opener, 'Johnny Delusional'.
Other highlights include the first single 'Piss Off' - which, incidentally, was also the first track Ron Mael sent to Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos some 10 years ago - along with the brilliantly self-aware 'Collaborations Don't Work'.
All in all, what they've managed to produce here is a record which should appeal to fans of both bands without taking either too far out of their comfort zones. It might sound like a heady mix on paper, but even on the first listen this is an album that totally makes sense.
If you exclude the traditional 'supergroups' featuring one or two members from different bands, there are precious few examples of two bands in their entirety working together on a whole album, and you'll be able to judge for yourself when FFS drops next week (June 8th) if this is a winning combination, but in the meantime we've picked a few other collaborative albums that are well worth looking into. You can also check out one of the tracks from the new LP below...
Broadcast & The Focus Group: Broadcast & The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age
Probably our favourite example of two bands working together and making a success of it, this collaboration between The Focus Group and Broadcast reveals two like-minded acts working in perfect harmony and some of the results are simply beautiful, such as 'The Be Colony', which you can find below.
The Supremes & The Temptations: Diana Ross & the Supremes Join The Temptations
One of the most commercially successful collaborations came from the legendary Motown stable, with The Supremes and The Temptations creating an album of cover versions together that reached No. 2 the Billboard charts in 1968. Diana Ross AND Eddie Kendricks? Yes please...
Sunn O))) & Boris: Altar
By some distance, this is the most far-out collaboration album we know of, courtesy of Japanese doom group Boris and drone-heavy duo Sunn O))), who also collaborated with the legendary Scott Walker on an album for 4AD last year. Party music it is not, but it's moody, dense and atmospheric and well worth a listen if you're a fan of either band.