Behind the droll text-speak name lurks the collective talent of Franz Ferdinand and Sparks, a combination that on the face of it could be excessively arch but that actually turns out to be bags of fun, sharp and sweet and sour all at once, with gravity and its opposite, humour, in near perfect equilibrium throughout.
And just in case you still find the prospect of an alliance between two art-pop combos dubious, they’ve stolen a march by getting their retaliation in first, courtesy of “Collaborations Don’t Work”, a sort of electro-chamber-music aria that charts the usual course of such projects: “You start off deferential/Strangely reverential…”, before inevitably deteriorating into the all-out animus that leads so appositely into the album closer “Piss Off”.
This smart, tart rejoinder is typical of the way these dozen songs scratch away at the kind of emotions not often covered in pop, from the paranoid innocent abroad in “Save Me from Myself”, to the anxiety about an impending visit from “The Power Couple” and the widespread suspicion, in “The Man without a Tan”, of pale and interesting types in a body-conscious world.
Musically, it’s an almost seamless blend of the two groups’ styles, variations on a sort of operatic indie-electropop, which recalls variously Freedom of Choice-era Devo, chattering Kraftwerk techno and, in the more melancholy environs inhabited by “Little Guy from the Suburbs”, a whiff of Leonard Cohenn. Russell Mael’s and Alex Kapranos’s voices likewise braid pleasingly on their shared songs, while both parties seem to have egged each other on lyrically, with songs about a dictator’s son living large, a Japanese girl toting a “Hello Kitty Uzi”, and a litany of “Things I Won’t Get” that includes both luxuries (a Bentley Arnage), qualities (celebrity) and theories (“Schoenberg and twelve-tone and such”), all supposedly outweighed by the solace of a partner’s love. Tongues out of cheeks, please, guys.