FAKE TEAK were actually first name checked by VILE ELECTRODES back in 2011.
With diverse influences such as Krautrock, Afrobeat, funk, rock and electronica, the band has since evolved and it would be fair to say they have a unusual hybrid sound that falls neither into exclusively synth or alternative music circles. After a long gestation period, the London-based quartet of Andrew Wyld (bass, synthesizer + vocals), Alastair Nicholls (guitar, synthesizer, bass + vocals), Joanna Wyld (synthesizer, flute + vocals) and Andrea Adriano (drums, production + vocals) finally get to release their self-titled debut long player.
As an opening statement of intent with hand-driven organic synth sounds galore, the spectre of LCD SOUNDSYSTEM looms heavily on ‘Dance Like Nobody’s Watching’ while on the frantic seize the day mantra of ‘Bears Always Party The Exact Right Amount’, early TALKING HEADS enter the mix via a groovy rhythmic backbone. Meanwhile, ‘Post Office Tower’ is a quirky ode to that London monument with the revolving restaurant, traditional yet slightly off-the-wall.
The new wave flavour of ‘Solid-State’ makes good use of an ARP Odyssey Mk1 as FAKE TEAK sing of “going electronic again” while the unwavering art funk of ‘Recall A Thought’ explores an inner Byrne.
‘Whole Lot O’ Grief’ throws offbeats and flute into the equation alongside a bassy synth rumble, but ‘Lagos 82’ takes on a great energetic FRANZ FERDINAND feel and codas with a wonderfully glorious chant. Meanwhile, ‘101’ is not a tribute to DEPECHE MODE but actually comes over bizarrely like DR HOOK backed by AZTEC CAMERA and when the Roland Juno 60 strings kick in, it sounds even weirder!
But the best is saved until almost last; an affectionate parody of HOT CHIP’s ‘Ready For The Floor’, ‘No Shame’ is a delightfully odd but catchy disco tune about that strange moment when people with nothing in common come together on the dancefloor.
With plenty of synth action, there’s a rousing church-like middle section in which each band member contributes vocals to provide a rather fabulous harmonious effect, recalling the Alex Kapranos produced CITIZENS! Closing with the eerily filmic ‘Breathless’, the syncopated rhythmics are offset by layers of synths and eccentric vocals.
What stands out about FAKE TEAK is how they don’t stylistically pander to any musical fashions.
And despite their use of vintage synthesizers, the synths are not the excuse for the song, but neither are they for pose or just part of the background to fill out the odd chord here or there.
If you like the idea of a distinctly English take on LCD SOUNDSYSTEM and TALKING HEADS, topped with a dash of HOT CHIP and FRANZ FERDINAND too, FAKE TEAK may be right up your country lane.
‘Fake Teak’ is available on the usual digital platforms
To say that FFS’ performance at The Troxy in London was something of a blinder would be an understatement.
On the one hand, there was FRANZ FERDINAND, the Glasgow based art rockers, playing together with an impeccable tightness and vitality that reminded people of the freshness they brought to a 2004 music scene that was dominated by dreary bedwetters like COLDPLAY, SNOW PATROL and KEANE.
On the other were SPARKS, the veteran sibling duo comprising of Russell and Ron Mael who, with a career spanning over 45 years, have had many career ups and downs including being teenybopper pin-ups and disco champions. However tonight, their trajectory is again upwards and Russell Mael in particular had the vigour of a man who was much younger than his 66 years!
There is no doubt that the six piece’s self-titled collaborative album is one of the best of 2015. It has reinvigorated both acts and proved that age is no barrier to making great music. In the packed venue that clearly forgot to switch its air conditioning on, Russell Mael and Alex Kapranos displayed a wonderful, endearing camaraderie.
Kapranos in particular was smiling and thoroughly enjoying himself, relaxed in the knowledge that the pressure of fronting the band was now shared with his falsetto ranging spiritual godfather. Meanwhile the younger Mael was relishing working with a partner who was slightly more animated than his motionless brother. But the senior Mael did have his lively moments too.
Although maintaining his usual stern persona behind his keyboard throughout most of the show (save the amusing odd towel wipe of his armpits), for the powerful percussive climax of ‘The Number One Song In Heaven’, he loosened his tie, took centre stage and tap danced to huge roars of approval. Nicely segued into a synth boosted reboot of ‘Michael’, this song pairing provided a wonderful mid-show highlight.
Opening with the self-explanatory ‘Johnny Delusional’, the well-paced set was drawn largely from the ‘FFS’ long player. But there were a number of favourites from the SPARKS and FRANZ FERDINAND back catalogues too. While ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us’ and ‘Do You Want To?’ were the staple crowd pleasers, there was also the welcome additions of ‘Achoo’ (the SPARKS song which FRANZ FERDINAND attempted at their first ever rehearsal) and ‘Walk Away’, while ‘Take Me Out’ predictably had the whole crowd bouncing.
Nick McCarthy took to the mike for his deadpan turn on ‘The Things I Won’t Get’, but rumour has it that Kapranos already owns most of the items on the FRANZ FERDINAND guitarist’s shopping list, hence the absence of his vocal! McCarthy even indulged in a spot of crowd surfing later on during proceedings.
The eccentric march of ‘The Power Couple’ had the audience swinging in all manner of loopy motions, but it was the FFS album’s rousing closing track that stole the show.
As the chant of “P*SS OFF!” rang in unison around The Troxy, the crowd punched the air in a gesture of defiant solidarity. Despite the inclusion of a fair number of hits, it was the positive reception for the FFS material that was the show’s biggest revelation and the key indicator of the album’s quality.
‘Police Encounters’ showed how FFS are a sum greater than its parts, while ‘Collaborations Don’t Work’ was a marvellous example of quirky songwriting that came over like seven song snippets cut ‘n’ pasted together for one enjoyable art school musical.
They returned to encore with a funky rendition of ‘When Do I Get To Sing My Way’. Seamlessy welded to the catchy ‘Call Girl’, it concluded an unforgettably fabulous evening that left the multi-generational audience sweaty but grinning as they headed home. The fact is, FFS won’t be able to go on forever, so miss them at your peril…
The album ‘FFS’ is released by Domino Records in CD, deluxe CD, red vinyl double LP and download formats
FFS UK dates include: Edinburgh Festival Theatre (24th August), Manchester Albert Hall (25th August), Glasgow Barrowland (26th August)
The debut long player by FFS could easily be titled ‘Art School Musical’. A union of FRANZ FERDINAND and SPARKS, unlike many collaborations which are often distant and detached, this visceral project has centred around working as a six piece band together in a room. The partnership appears to have invigorated both acts too. SPARKS’ career has generally been very up and down commercially, but Russell and Ron Mael have never been deterred by public or media ambivalence and the siblings have always returned like a phoenix from the flames when people least expected it.
Following their initial success between 1974-75 with brilliant singles such as ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us’, ‘Amateur Hour’ ‘Something For The Girl With Everything’ and ‘Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth’, they fell out of public favour for a time until Giorgio Moroder attached their eccentric sound to disco friendly electronics for the 1979 hits ‘The Number One Song In Heaven’ and ‘Beat The Clock’. The Mael brothers would not trouble the UK and European charts again until 1994 with ‘When Do I Get To Sing My Way’, but it fittingly led to acknowledgment from the Britpop scene with members of SUEDE, PULP and BLUR all publically displaying signs of approval.
Meanwhile within the Glasgow art school scene in 2002, FRANZ FERDINAND formed and the song they attempted at their first ever band rehearsal was ‘Achoo’ by SPARKS. The quartet would go on to make an impact with their tempo changing guitar driven dance rock on singles like the catchy ‘Take Me Out’ and a send-up of their art school roots ‘Do You Want To’. It was around this time that a collaboration with SPARKS was first mooted, but it wasn’t until 2014 that the idea began to have realistic momentum.
So with the singer of THE KAISER CHIEFS now acting as a talent show judge and THE KILLERS more or less turning into the next U2, it is down to FRANZ FERDINAND to snatch back the intellectual artistic high ground in association with their spiritual godfathers.
FFS could well also put the Mael Brothers back in the mainstream for the fourth time in a very long career of over 45 years. A great example of how this relationship has gelled is reflected on the ironically titled ‘Collaborations Don’t Work’.
A seven minute journey that is a glorious cut ’n’ paste of both bands, there’s a terrific moment when it sounds like QUEEN with Russell Mael and Alex Kapranos exchanging operatic rants of “I don’t need your patronising! – I don’t need your agonising!”. But then, it turns into Jimmy Webb’s ‘The Highwayman’, as well as mutating into buzzy synthpop, spacey jazz, a showtune and a classical mini-symphony along the way! It is bonkers and brilliant!
The album starts however with ‘Johnny Delusional’, a stomping indie rocker with Russell Mael’s trademark falsetto and Ron Mael’s piano interludes augmented by stabs of octave bass synth. The lyrical couplet of “I want you, I know I haven’t a chance – Johnny Delusional here” accurately conveys the resigned inadequacy and awkwardness of the narrative.
‘Call Girl’ is very synth laden with a Minimoog Voyager making its presence felt. While it revisits SPARKS past adventures in Europop, the FRANZ FERDINAND element provides the Mael brothers with a thumping powertrain from Bob Hardy and Paul Thomson that probably wouldn’t have manifested itself had Russell and Ron been working alone in LA.
Beginning a little like the Midge Ure B-side ‘Piano’, ‘Dictator’s Son’ takes a choppy art rock backbone and fills it with drama. It’s an amusingly ironic title considering the controversy over Ron Mael’s look when SPARKS first famously appeared on ‘Top Of The Pops’ in 1974. Meanwhile, the sparse ballad ‘Little Guy From The Suburbs’ has hints of Ennio Morrricone. With the line “There are no heroes in this life”, it is perhaps the most serious piece on the FFS collection.
Alongside some outre synth movements on ‘Police Encounters’, Russell’s breakneck speed wordplay is electronically treated as he keeps up with this bouncy slice of phased percussive madness. ‘Save Me From Myself’ features those classic SPARKS staccato ivories and with a soaring chorus and a wonderful multi-tracked vocal passage for the middle eight, it is the closest to their Mack produced tracks like ‘Angst In My Pants’.
The most electronic track on ‘FFS’ comes with ‘So Desu Ne’, a marvellously squelchy number that conceptually harks back to SPARKS’ breakthrough album ‘Kimono My House’.
With drum machine, vibrato synth stabs and surreal references to Japanese culture like “a Hello Kitty Uzi” and “a Kenzo kimono”, it is rhythmically angular with a great use of samples sourced from Alex and Russell’s voices towards the close.
After all the quirky art school banter, ‘FFS’ becomes more straightforward with ‘The Man Without A Tan’ and ‘Things I Won’t Get’. Scratchy guitars and driving electric bass with bizarre orchestral sections dominate the former which comes over more as archetypical FRANZ FERDINAND, while the latter sees Franz’s Nick McCarthy take on lead vocals to deadpan an unattainable shopping list that includes Hugo Boss and Air Jordan. However, it’s a number that doesn’t become that interesting until Russell harmonises with his trademark falsetto.
It all gets quirky again on ‘The Power Couple’ where a tumbling rhythm provides a domino effect, like a circus clown march. Russell takes on an unusually low register as Alex adopts a midtone snarl in a neo-gothic piece that comes over like a Brechtian set piece adapted by MUSE. “We must make a good impression” they chant.
‘P*ss Off’ is possibly the album’s most outstanding number and one of the songs of the year. As Ron Mael’s first offering to FFS when it was first mooted in 2004, it makes a highly fitting closer. With the vibrancy of ‘Kimono My House’ and ‘Propaganda’ era SPARKS, there are jaunty ivories and camp vocal theatrics in the vein of classics like ‘Something For The Girl With Everything’ and ‘BC’. “It’s inexplicable” they all growl as the multi-track phrase of “HARMONIES” kicks in! A total joy, ‘P*ss Off’ is the ultimate two fingered anthem and is sure to become a future live favourite for SPARKS and FRANZ FERDINAND when they inevitably go their separate ways.
Like the sorcerer working with the apprentice to double the magical power, over period of just over two weeks, FFS have recorded an entertaining compendium of anecdotes that will appeal to armchair enthusiasts of SPARKS and FRANZ FERDINAND. ‘FFS’ is the most accessible work that either act has produced for several years. Full of wit and repartee, this is the sound of six individuals having a lot of fun but additionally, making something artistically spiky and satisfying.
‘FFS’ is released by Domino Records in CD, deluxe CD with bonus tracks, red vinyl double LP and download variants
FFS play the following UK dates: Glasgow Art School (16th June), London Troxy (26th June), Manchester Albert Hall (29th August)
Some persist on their inflated self-assessment and demand recognition, despite their actual league standing.
And these characters are the subject of ‘Johnny Delusional’, the lead single from the self-titled album by FFS, a new project comprising of Glasgow based art school quartet FRANZ FERDINAND and everyone’s favourite quirky pop siblings SPARKS.
While ‘Johnny Delusional’ starts like the intro of FRANZ FERDINAND’s ‘Walk Away’, it then launches into a stomping indie rocker with Russell Mael’s trademark falsetto and Ron Mael’s piano interplay augmented by stabs of octave bass synth. With the lyrical couplet of “I want you, I know I haven’t a chance”, ‘Johnny Delusional’ could be about a girl, fame or acknowledgement…
As a possible reply to ‘Johnny Delusional’, the ‘FFS’ album closer ‘P*ss Off’ has also been publically aired. With the vibrancy of ‘Kimono My House’ and ‘Propaganda’ era SPARKS, it is riddled with jaunty ivories and camp vocal theatrics in the vein of classics such as ‘Something For The Girl With Everything’ and ‘BC’.
Each combo’s own eccentric pop sensibilities have been successfully merged and mutated, with no one act dominating the other. “I think each band unconsciously relinquished a little of who they were in order to enter new territory” said Ron Mael.
“Most collaborations stink!” said FRANZ FERDINAND’s Alex Kapranos and observers would have every reason to be cynical following SPARKS’ less than successful adventures with FAITH NO MORE, ERASURE and JIMMY SOMMERVILLE on the 1997 project ‘Plagiarism’.
But FFS is different… whereas ‘Plagiarism’ was a well-intentioned, if ultimately flawed, revisiting of the Mael brothers’ past glories, the union between SPARKS and FRANZ FERDINAND is centred around working as a six piece band on fresh new material.
And this is reflected on ‘Collaborations Don’t Work’, a seven minute journey that takes in acoustic balladry, synthesized orchestrations, layered operatics and classical piano!
Like the sorcerer working with the apprentice to double the magical power, over a period of just over two weeks in late 2014, ‘FFS’ was recorded “all together, in a room” according to Kapranos, “So no hanging around or fannying about”. Based on the evidence of the three songs premiered in full so far, FFS are presenting some fine idiosyncratic but accessible pop.
‘FFS’ is released by Domino Records on 8th June 2015
FFS play the following UK dates: Glasgow Art School (16th June), London Troxy (26th June), Manchester Albert Hall (29th August)