Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand

Just because every music critic in the land suddenly simultaneously drools like a sick puppy over some hot new things, it doesn't mean said things are actually that good. The slavish adulation these uber-foppish young Glaswegians are getting across the board is off-putting because it has so many bad precedents. Music mags, broadsheets, tabloids and no doubt promotional in-house newsletters for the grommet manufacturing industry have been unanimous in their knicker-wetting praise. When the "with-it" Guardian allowed the band to edit their own G2 supplement one was reminded of that dark era when university professors and vicars were (quite genuinely) invited on television to discuss the intricacies behind the lyrics to Oasis' Be Here Now. Frankly, there's just not enough vomit in the world.

I put this album on therefore expecting an instant eye and earful of Emperor's New Clothing. What I got was the opening song, "Jacqueline", the most genuinely thrilling beginning to an album for many, many years. All the factors that make this record transcend the hype kick in with an exhilarating and magnetic burst. The thousand megawatt surge of the soaring guitar, the elastic funk of the swaggering bass, the strangely mannered voice that swings from the mannered to the primal. This opener is fucking sensational, and for once the whole mass of tawdry, silly hyperbole seems, if anything, understated.

It would be impossible for a whole album to carry on as well as that, but they have a damn good try. Their sound has been described as part of the early 80's punk-funk revival, but this is a lot more fully realised than The Rapture were ever likely to be. There certainly is something almost eerily 80's about singer Alex Kapranos' affected tones. But perhaps a better comparison can be found with previous press darlings The Strokes. Both draw heavily from the art-punk of the late 70's, but whereas The Strokes are more Television and Iggy, Franz Ferdinand are more Blondie and Buzzcocks. And it's the Scots' songs that stay with you longer.

Lyrically we're in that hinterland between world-weary hedonism and humane misanthropy, where the smart are cool and the cool are smart. There's some very nice touches. The comically self-obsessed student in "Dark Of The Matinee" daydreaming of impressing his as-yet unrequited love by "Telling Terry Wogan how I made it/But what I 'made' is unclear now/But his deference is/And his laughter is". "Michael" is an impressively leery foray into the world of seedy boy-on-boy glamour, following boldly in the footsteps of the genre's forbears Ziggy, Iggy, Marc, Moz and Lou.

But really its not the lyrics that make this record so memorable; it's the fact that these must be some of the most danceable indie tunes EVER, be it the primal surge of Jacqueline, the imperious bounce of "Dark Of The Matinee", the schizoid pogo of "Cheating On You" or the wraithish beauty of "Auf Asche". The hit single "Take Me Out" must be the first hit single since Radiohead's "Paranoid Android" to manage the tricky job of melding two completely different tunes together to make one classy song, even if the second part does bare a disturbing similarity to the old Genesis hit "That's All" (can I really be alone in noticing this blatant rip-off from Collins' rightly maligned crew? I sense a cover up of Kennedyesque proportions....) There's only one dud on the whole album, the insipid "This Fire".

I'll temper my real enthusiasm here, and put my sourpuss head on the block by predicting that while this is a great record, Franz Ferdinand will not become one of the all time greats. Its not the music that will prevent immortality, but Alex's delivery being just that too mannered, the enigmatic lyrics not quite grabbing you enough.

I really do hope to be proved wrong about that, and that this album will prove a springboard to even higher zeniths for the fey young lads. Is this the future of rock? Maybe, maybe not. But in the meantime you really must accept that some things are true even though the NME and the Telegraph say they are, and lap up the most exciting band in aeons, tailor made like all the best for the young but old at heart.

[First published on Spike Magazine, 2004]Back