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Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand Print E-mail
Tuesday, 20 April 2004

Franz Ferdinand

Franz Ferdinand
format: 16-bit Stereo CD
label: Domino/Sony
release year: 2004
performance: 9
sound 8.5
reviewed by: Charles Andrews

Image So England’s newest Next Big Thing is…Scottish? Okay. Rod Stewart is topping the charts again and, lest we forget, Mr. Smooth Standards Crooner was once huge as a true bad boy of rock. Annie Lennox is a lassie, as were the Jesus and Mary Chain, Big Country (huge, for about six hours), and – surprise! – AC/DC’s Angus and Malcolm Young were born Scots (and Bon Scott’s…parents…were Scots) before being transplanted down under (hence the bagpipes in “It’s a Long Way to the Top”).
But never mind the ethnic arguments. What’s historically off-putting to American music fans is the endless string of Brit bands declared big, big stars at home -- chart toppers -- groundbreakers, who can’t buy pudding in the States. How’s your Oasis collection?

So it was with great caution that I approached Franz Ferdinand and the frothing hype that preceded them. The band couldn’t be that good, they weren’t even English, the eponymous album wouldn’t hold up. And sure enough, after being initially rocked back on my heels by the impressive and consistent unrelenting strength through 11 songs, repeated listenings found me getting quickly bored and contemptuous. Contemptuous! Their sound is way too much like those ‘80s U.K. bands that seduced us with their pretty boy tunes that danced to the top of the charts but now sound like a bad joke. No substance, no staying power with these FF guys, either?

But then a strange thing happened. More repeated and focused listenings, turned contempt into a familiarity with an absolutely hook-laden sonic portrait splashed with hundreds of pixels of inspired, brilliant moments rooted in the best elements of decades of great rock ‘n’ roll, everything from the Kinks to the Clash to…Oasis.

Certain moments of vocal attitude are most reminiscent of the Durans-Frankies-Seagulls. Listen to “Michael”: too sexy for what? Lola’s marched out of the closet onto the dance floor, and the aching, stretching vocal at the end could be Ray Davies. But that chunky guitar sounds so much like The Police, and those tinny drums take you back to ska, second wave. With electronic accents, and vocal choirs, there are too many touchstones to lay it at Soft Cell’s feet. And doesn’t the drums-bass juggernaut pop up all over the album to sweep you along?

There’s that Clash guitar again in the prancing “40,” with Augustus Pablo-ish harmonium-izing. How many albums finish with a song this hot? But Franz Ferdinand are nothing if not tunesmiths, and since it always finally comes down to the songs, these guys could be gold. “Tell Her Tonight” is a quirky, addictive mid-‘60s charmer, followed by the delightful (especially after the break) “Take Me Out” and “The Dark of the Matinee.” But if you can’t resist those, what are you going to do with “This Fire”?

You might as well surrender. You can hold out for a while, even find fault, but the goods are in these grooves. This debut album is just heavy with instant classics classically derived and delivered with unflagging energy, and I can’t wait to hear what the future holds from Franz Ferdinand.

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