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Franz Ferdinand

Took me a couple of weeks to cozy up to Franz Ferdinand’s eponymous debut (Domino Recording Co. Ltd.), but it’s presently stuck on my daily rotation. I initially resisted the Scottish guitar band’s sound largely because of the Strokesy way Alex Kapranos’ lead vocals were mixed. But there was plenty in the rough-and-tumble instrumentation to keep leading me back: a virtual catalog of 80’s Britpop sounds (That Petrol Emotion guitar here; a Siouxsie and Banshies chorus there; some bits of Gang of Four and – Lord help us – the Stranglers, too) that the band still manages to make its own. A testament to the insidious power of great hooks.
The disc opens engagingly: just Kapranos and guitar crooning the first lines before Band-on-the-Run rollick breaks loose. Franz Ferdinand the Group (beats the hell out of me why they decided to name themselves after Archduke Ferdinand – but, then, I never understood the story behind Jethro Tull either) favors bellowing choruses (Kapranos taking lead while the rest of the group hollers in near harmony), busy drumwork and surging guitar lines over spare lyrics that primarily hint at romantic yearning and frustration. When it all comes together – which happens more often than not – it makes for damn fine pop-rock: as infectious an appropriation of boho popmoves as anything concocted by the Dandy Warhols, say. Listening to the boys channel Lust for Life Iggy Pop on the homoerotic “Michael” (right down to that all-important late-nite tinny drum sound), and you’re reminded of the joys and benefits of an A+ record collection.
Kapranos and guitar/keyboard switch-hitter Nick McCarthy provide plenty of great Open Yer Window And Let It Blast moments: the stomping guitar riffs on “The Dark of the Matinee” (which also includes some tidy slivers of calliope keyboards in the choorus); the Cure-inflected picking on “Auf Asche;” the galvanizing tempo shifts in “Jacqueline” and “Take Me Out,” the neatly piercing punk reggae slashes on “This Fire.” With its recurrent references to boozing and unattainable girls/guys, this is pure boys-will-be-boys music: the sound of twenty-something Peter Pans still so focused on the things they don’t want to be that they don’t know what or who they actually are. It’s an eternal teen-rock contradiction, and if Franz Ferdinand doesn’t offer any ways out of it, they do a loverly job holding it all up for the rest of us to see. . .

About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.

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