March 18, 2004

Band of the Year

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I have to admit that when the British music magazine, NME, named Franz Ferdinand the band of the year it meant absolutely nothing to me at all. Over the last two years, NME has gotten rid of their bullshit filter and proclaimed some group to be the band of the year practically every issue. They’ve presented us with At The Drive-In in 2000 (dead on with that call), The Strokes in 2001 (absolutely), and The White Stripes in 2002 (no arguments there). But since then groups such as The Hives (short-lived), The Libertines (overrated), and the Polyphonic Spree (hmm!?) have all been frivolously branded with a title that none of them could live up to, and so I couldn’t help but expect Franz Ferdinand to join this special club.

But with Franz Ferdinand’s eponymous debut album, there is definitely something more than a collection of run-of-the-mill post-Strokes songs surrounding the one smash hit that broke them onto the scene (see Datsuns and/or Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster). Though this recipe has made a festival’s worth of bands somewhat rich in the current musical climate, Franz Ferdinand have pieced together something that should be a little more sustainable.

The stand out hit is unquestionably “Take Me Out,” due to a fascinating and unexpected breakdown that Converge would be proud of, followed by a stimulating, dance-shoe guitar riff that might make Christopher Reeves tap his feet. The song seems to detail an obsessive relationship of a sniper and his prey (“So if you’re lonely/ You know I’m here waiting for you/ I’m just a cross-hair/ I’m just a shot away from you.”), yet manages to carry the subject on a tune fit for an old discotheque, and you find yourself reaching for the nearest person to two-step with.

But the Scottish quartet offer many other sounds on the 11-track offering, providing a refreshing sound on almost every song. The album’s opener “Jacqueline” begins with a somber acoustic lullaby then builds throughout the song to a rocking crescendo (“It’s always better on holiday/ So much better on holiday/ That’s why we only work when we need the money”). Barely without pause, “Tell Her Tonight” starts and you’re left wondering if you’re still listening to the same CD, as the track has touches of ’80s new-wave both vocally and musically. Meanwhile the lyrics match the creepy onlooker’s desire of “Take Me Out” (“She only blinked her eyes, but I saw it/ She only swung her hair, but I saw it