44. Franz Ferdinand

44. Franz Ferdinand– Franz Ferdinand (2004)

How: Here.

Why: When it comes to hype proliferation, hardly any entity does it better than the British musical media machine. A partial list of indie bands since the early 1980s that were supposed to change the world: The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Pixies, Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Blur, Oasis, Radiohead, The Strokes, Muse, Bloc Party, Arctic Monkeys, The Fratellis, Kasabian, and most recently, ∆ (Alt-J). What do they have in common? None of them became the Beatles as was promised, for one. For another, most of them are British, and those American few (excepting Nirvana) have British media to thank for their international support. Some of them (Nirvana, Pixies, Radiohead) reached massive heights worthy of the hype they accumulated, but most just lingered in a state between very good and great that in no way justified hyperbolic reception upon first release.

Franz Ferdinand is one of those bands, a band adored by hardcore fans and BBC Radio 3 alike, who has yet to repeat the massive success of their self-titled debut album. “Take Me Out” dropped in late 2003, and the West responded with an enthusiasm for rock unseen since The Strokes conquered New York City after 9/11. Analyzing any band around the early aughts requires name-dropping The Strokes, especially since the first minute of “Take Me Out” sounds exactly like the song Julian Casablancas wishes he had written. Many were turned off by The Stroke’s high end nonchalance and designer rock; meanwhile, Franz Ferdinand may have discovered the purest intentions for recording an album: “to make girls dance.”

One can’t find fault with their desires, and though Franz Ferdinand can’t make the girls dance quite like The Chemical Brothers or Pitbull can, the same carefree snark found in their original intentions permeates throughout the album like a harmless drug. On the Stroke’s opening track off Is This It?, Casablancas lackadaisically croons “I can’t think ‘cause/I’m just way too tired/is this it?” like a man fatigued by the rock scene for twenty years. On the contrary, Alex Kapranos yells in the opening track “Jaqueline,” “it’s always better at holiday/so much better at holiday!/that’s why we only work when/we need the money!” Both exemplify commonly accepted Generation Y attitudes, though The Strokes magnify incompetence while Franz Ferdinand advocates for responsible celebration. The endgame isn’t to sleep with the dancing girls; that would be disrespectful. Franz just wants the girls to dance, whatever happens after that is the girls’ decision.

Beyond their bold and beautiful declaration, Franz made it big because they sounded so organically fun. Unlike most rock bands, they weren’t afraid to be as Scottish as possible, dropping Glaswegian references under heavy brogues unfamiliar to every American listener too busy dancing to “Darts of Pleasure,” anyway. It’s a heavy stretch to say they started the indie-dance craze that peaked with LCD Soundsystem’s seven year reign, but they gave the genre radio-worthiness, and in an era where the British public was constantly looking for new ways to synthesize their disco, that Franz could make dance hits with guitars, drums, and bass testifies to their pop intiuition. “Take Me Out,” “This Fire,” “Come on Home” and “Michael” should still be staples of hipster dance parties with their visceral but generally unsubstantial lyrics. It’s not Disclosure, but it’s still impressive.

As for the album’s rock side, it’s even better than its dance offerings. Closer “40’” is probably the album’s most overlooked song, and it sounds like a prequel to what Arctic Monkeys would be dropping onto an ignorant but generous British public. The moody “Auf Achse” and the springy “Tell Her Tonight” don’t exactly fit with their original agenda, but they’re good songs regardless, enjoyable to the last hi hat hit and spoiled lyric.

Franz Ferdinand isn’t any better than Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Bloc Party, Hard-Fi, Kasabian, ∆, or any other of the British indie rock that was supposed to cure cancer from the mid-late aughts, but their debut album holds a special place in my heart. It was my first, my cherished, my thrice scratched, my beloved record that arguably propelled me to begin inconsequentially analyzing music in the first place. I could’ve chosen a better album to kick off this naïve fantasy, but at least there was some nice dancing along the way. I regret nothing.


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