ALL OUR YESTERDAYS : (15/15) : FRANZ FERDINAND

Album: Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand
Review: NME, 12 December 2005
Author: Anthony Thornton

It’s the modest ones you’ve got to look out for. Franz Ferdinand‘s aim is to “make records that girls can dance to and to cut through postured crap”. Oh really? After all they sport art-school crops, stripey shirts and the moniker of the archduke whose assassination kick-started the First World War. In short, last time we checked they weren’t quite Jet. So Franz Ferdinand, then: Posturing? Yes. Crap? Well, we’ll get to that.

So they’re smart enough to play a little dumb. And certainly this debut fulfills their modest – but laudable – aim of making girls gyrate. Because, without doubt, this debut is an album packed with tunes that will make anyone with legs dance. At indie discos across the land their first two singles have been packing dancefloors. So, in essence, we have the band equivalent of the smart kid who shoplifts to get popular, who plays down their IQ to fit in.

And why not? There’s a great tradition of smart people at first confusing the world with the apparent simplicity of what they do: Iggy Pop, the Sex Pistols, even The Rolling Stones. Because, the single theme of British music of the last decade has remained constant: no one likes a smart-arse. We all have a giggle at the silly musicians pompously proclaiming their genius. Nothing makes us laugh as much as authors of rock operas, or Metallica‘s dabblings in classical music and, of course, everything that comes out of Brian Molko‘s mouth. Who wouldn’t want to avoid the trap of being seen to be clever-clever? After all, just look what happened to Blur.

But then, of course, it’s Oasis‘s fault that we find ourselves at this juncture. They beat Blur so comprehensively – so completely – that, to be in a band and be smart, to challenge assumptions, or go out on a limb became unthinkable. The amazing lineage of British art-school bands simply fizzled out: The Beatles, The Who, the Stones, Roxy Music, Sex Pistols, Wire, Blur and nothing. Since then, all the new big and important bands have been salt-of-the-earth types (Stereophonics) or sweeping romantics (Coldplay) and they dressed like neglected shelf-fillers.

Franz Ferdinand formed after meeting at Glasgow College of Art, signing in summer 2003 – so they’re settled into a noble and inescapable tradition. The problem is that, despite their self-effacing aims, their records are informed and driven by this tradition. This may be sad for them, but it’s great news for us. Because, however fantastically dancey or lose-yourself a track is, there remains at its core an intelligence that makes it as engaging for the brain as it is for the feet. From the guitar-dicing song arrangements to the cod-German anthemic end to ‘Darts Of Pleasure’, at the heart of Franz there’s an innate need to subvert those tunes and reject cliché.

As critics have noted even the crowd-pleasing top-three sounds they use owe themselves to the informed art-school political disco-assault of early ’80s post-punkers Gang Of Four and Josef K. But where the post-punkers’ caustic tunes were hemmed in by politics, ideology and sloganeering, Franz Ferdinand cloak themselves in love and ambiguity.

Ideas slide in and out of view as they refuse to get tied to anything. If there is one overriding theme it’s that of structure. They appear to have taken the tired grunge blueprint of quiet/loud/quiet/loud and breathed new life into it so that it becomes laconic/dance/laconic/dance.

For when they’re not dancing, they’re revelling in the detached passion of a voyeur. Alex Kapranos‘s attitudes are wrapped up in smudged passion. It’s arch, but revealing. (“I want this fantastic passion/We’ll have fantastic passion” he chimes charmingly in ‘Darts Of Pleasure’) – he’s a lothario with mean intent and knows exactly which buttons to press. But you half suspect that it’s another pose: if actually confronted with heaving passion he’d run a mile. How very British.

This teasing uncertainty lies at the heart of the album. ‘Michael’ may at first appear to be a frank exploration of homoeroticism (“Michael you’re dancing like a beautiful dance whore”) but really Alex is just playing at sexual roles in the same way Morrissey enjoyed 20 years ago.

Alex has two clear voices: a rich, warm, honeyed croon that he employs to devastating effect throughout the laconic sections and a more straight-ahead rock voice. It’s an unsettling effect – not quite Scott Walker playing vocal tag with a rock Bowie but not far off. It’s another example of the bountiful contradictions at the heart of Franz Ferdinand. Of course, on ‘Darts Of Pleasure’ the two voices almost meld as they battle for supremacy – it’s this struggle that makes the song so potent.

But Franz Ferdinand aren’t satisfied with just two voices though, indulging in the twisted absurdist yelp of ‘Tell Her Tonight’‘s verse, coupled with its mannered mid-section, and ‘Darts Of Pleasure’s cod-German energetic outro that’s designed to replicate the moment of orgasm. It’s preferable to screeching “Goal!”, but should your lover ever make the vinegar face and cry out “I’m super fantastic, I drink champagne and salmon” in any language it’s probably advisable to ditch them. Immediately.

What makes this all the more extraordinary is that ‘Take Me Out’ is a typical record executive’s idea of exactly what not to release as a single. It’s essentially two songs spot-welded together like one of those Robin Reliant/BMW conjunctions that Watchdog always gets so annoyed about. Sadly, the more cautious radio presenters have elected to play just the second half, missing that this is an inspired coupling that showcases all Franz Ferdinand’s strengths: staccato guitars, disco rhythms and arch lyrics.

A more pretentious writer would state that the moment the stuttering Strokesy guitars are replaced by the booty-shaking rhythm and disco guitar is the moment that the sun goes down on Julian Casablancas mob. Not me, though. But it’s an intriguing idea.

The two deviations from the messy subject of sex bookend the album. The opener, ‘Jacqueline’ is dazzling. Alex murmurs a tale of 17-year-old office girl exchanging glances, as a guitar hesitantly strums. It’s the most low-key opening of an album in recent memory, but suddenly the insistent bass intrudes, absurdly spiky guitars burst in, the focus pulls back and the remainder of the song is an advert for being on the dole. Alex sneers as though he hates work, but it’s an OK compromise. More importantly, it’s a compromise he’s chosen: “It’s always better on holiday/So much better on holiday/That’s why we only work when/We need the money”. Not quite a philosophy, but a pretty decent way of life.

Ironically the closer ’40 Ft’ with its veiled allusions to death is the song that look to the future. Its ominous references to blood congealing and 40 feet remaining seem transparent references to suicide. The band claim it’s more to do with flinging yourself into a difficult situation than off a railway bridge but its detached delivery and fractured elegance is creepy and mesmerising.

Rarely for a debut, there’s no crap – ‘Cheating On You’ is the closest to giving off the scent of ‘will-this-do?’ but only because its thrills are uncharacteristically one-dimensional. But there is still pleasure aplenty in the way they race through the pointed chorus (“Goodbye girl because it’s only love”) – as if the band member that finishes last is going to have to pick up the bar tab.

This album is the latest and most intoxicating example of the wonderful pushing its way up between the ugly slabs of Pop Idol, nu metal and Britons aping American bands. What these blossoming bands have in common is the absolute conviction that rock ‘n’ roll is more than a career option. They’re bringing an energy and inventiveness and a need to break the rules. From the Franz Ferdinand gigs at the warehouse The Chateau and their bootleg album through to The Libertines‘ constant guerrilla gigging and British Sea Power‘s onstage bear’n’branches antics new British music is exciting again. And although it’s early days there’s a huge bunch of new bands coming up giving two fingers to the man and making extraordinary music.

Emerging now are The ’80s Matchbox B-Line Disaster finally fulfilling their promise, The Duke Spirit whipping up dark pleasures, The Futureheads genetically-mutating rock and there’s a whole art rock scene based around the Angular Records compilation with Bloc Party and Art Brut leading the pack. Now is the greatest time for 25 years to form a band.

With Travis scraping into the charts at 48 while Franz Ferdinand breeze in nonchalantly at three with ‘Take Me Out’, it’s the biggest upheaval since Pulp turned heads when ‘Common People’ went to number two in 1995. It marks the dawning of an era of British music that isn’t just for the casual petrol shop consumer, but stuff so important that you can give yourself to it completely. This is the album that’s going kick open the door for all the great British bands that’ll sweep through in their wake.

And this is a great place to start. Despite what Franz Ferdinand say, this is an album as much about preening and posing as passion, that’ll have you poring over the lyrics for an age. The fear that they couldn’t match their first two singles has proved unfounded. They’ve done it. With style, wit and, well, great posture.

JC adds…….

That’s an awful lot of pressure to place on an album, never mind a debut.  It’s easy to mock now given how wide of the remark the prediction was in that the re-ignition of the interest in art-school, indie-guitar music was temporary, with very few of the bands making it beyond two or three years.

Here’s the thing.  When I turn my mind to the best albums to come out of Scotland in my lifetime, I inevitably go back in time to the previous century with the new wave/post punk of The Skids and The Rezillos, the early stuff from Simple Minds, the Postcard bands, The Associates, Teenage Fanclub, Cocteau Twins, Primal Scream, Close Lobsters, JAMC and Arab Strap; the individual talents of Edwyn, Roddy, Paul H and Paul Q; or else I think of the more recent loves such as Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad and my very soft spot for the genius who is Adam Stafford.  I never factor Franz Ferdinand into the equation which is a huge oversight, as every time I play that debut album, I’m reminded of how damn-near perfect it is with not a duff note from start to end.

Oh, and you can just about always rely on one of their songs to fill the floor at a Simply Thrilled night.

mp3: Franz Ferdinand – Jacqueline
mp3: Franz Ferdinand – Take Me Out
mp3: Franz Ferdinand – Michael
mp3: Franz Ferdinand – Darts of Pleasure

 PS

Many thanks for all the comments over the past couple of weeks….the requests to keep this sort of thing have been duly noted and I’ll try my best to make it more of a regular feature in the weeks and months ahead.

It’s back to normal as of tomorrow beginning, as usual on Sundays, with the R.E.M. series.

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (49)

My introduction to Franz Ferdinand came via the video for the debut single airing on MTV2, probably on the Zane Lowe show.

The tune itself would have been enough to make me sit up and pay attention, but the fact that the video had been shot in my home city just made it that bit more exciting. I made a point of seeking out the single the following day and learned from the bloke behind the counter that, yes they were from Glasgow and that they had been part of the scene in the city for a few years with a few other bands which were rhymed off, none of which meant anything to me.

I took the CD single home and found myself a little bit anxious before playing it for the first time. The video was fresh in my head as was a chant-a-long chorus which I was sure was in German or perhaps Polish or Czech. What if it didn’t live up to expectations and that further listens would reveal it to be a bit of a dud?

Thankfully, it proved to be the opposite, with it sounding better, fresher and increasingly energetic with each repeated listen. It was that mix of angular spiky guitars that got me – as if the best of Glasgow and NYC had come together in three fabulous minutes

mp3: Franz Ferdinand – Darts Of Pleasure

It was the release of the sophomore single, Take Me Out, that turned Franz Ferdinand into indie and festival superstars in early 2004. Luckily, I had managed to catch a couple of shows in smaller venues but gently kicking myself that I had missed out on the gigs they had played in all sorts of unauthorised locations across the city in the preceding months as they built a reputation among the young folk who just knew about these sort of things. Looking back, it was an early example of the social media/internet going a long way to breaking a band and it was a medium I had no involvement with at all.

The other thing that I liked about the debut single was that the two b-sides (as such on a CD) were just as enjoyable but were nothing like the single. There was a sort of 70s art-rock about one of them, which also sounded as if it had a different singer (which turned out to be the case) while the other made me think of The Fall, but with a singer who didn’t drawl in a Mancunian accent but instead rapped about being the new Scottish gentry:-

mp3: Franz Ferdinand – Van Tango
mp3: Franz Ferdinand – Shopping For Blood

I actually don’t think Franz Ferdinand really bettered the debut single, certainly not in terms of me getting quite as excited (actually, that’s not quite true – I think Michael is an outstanding single, one which was bold and daring as it challenged the machismo of many a Glasgow male to sing-a-long – oh, and their cover of Sound and Vision where they roped in Girls Aloud to do the backing vocals!!);  but it is fair to say that they struck a chord with a wider audience, partly from the consistent excellence of the songs on the first couple of albums, but also from the fact they were a really good live act, capable of putting on a show in the smallest of venues as well as the large arenas and outdoor stages to which they would soon become very familiar.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #105 : FRANZ FERDINAND

The wiki summary:-

Franz Ferdinand are a Scottish indie rock band, formed in 2002 and based in Glasgow. The band’s original lineup was composed of Alex Kapranos (lead vocals and guitar, keyboard), Nick McCarthy (rhythm guitar, keyboards and backing vocals), Bob Hardy (bass guitar), and Paul Thomson (drums, percussion and backing vocals). Dino Bardot (guitar and backing vocals) and Julian Corrie (keyboards, synthesiser, guitar and backing vocals) joined the band in 2017 after McCarthy left during the previous year. The band has been notable for being one of the more popular post-punk revival bands, garnering multiple UK top 20 hits and selling over 3 million albums worldwide.

The discography consists of four studio albums, one remix album, and twenty-two singles, the most recent of which was adownload, released in October 2017, as a precursor to the new album due in February 2018.

I’ve always had a soft spot for this band, having been lucky enough to see them at small venues as well as at an arena gig when they were on the undecard for a Morrissey event in Manchester.

This is a belter of a single from the early days:-

mp3 : Franz Ferdinand – Michael

A #17 hit back in 2004.

JC

BORN TO DO COVER VERSIONS

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From Rolling Stone magazine:-

LCD Soundsystem’s tragically nostalgic dance-rock epic ‘All My Friends’ is arguably the best indie-rock song of the ’00s. The B-sides to the single were all cover versions, hinting that the song was a classic the minute it was released.

Scot rockers Franz Ferdinand, who’d already taken bracing, contorted grooves to the pop charts, were born to do ‘All My Friends’ and they turned in an incisive, raging guitar-grinding version with singer Alex Karpanos boozily crooning James Murphy’s forlorn lyrics about losing touch with your friends as you grow older and more ambitious. Musically, they pull of a wonderful trick of interlaying their version with references to legendary post-punk bands like New Order and the Gang of Four that LCD and Franz share as influences. It’s an A-plus history project you can get way down to.

mp3 : Franz Ferdinand – All My Friends

It really is a cracking, crackling energetic cover that is among the best things that FF have ever laid down.  But then again, they’re a band who have never shied away from tackling cover versions throughout their career, some without question more successfully than others as evidenced here:-

mp3 : Franz Ferdinand – Sexy Boy
mp3 : Franz Ferdinand – Get Up and Use Me
mp3 : Franz Ferdinand – What You Waiting For?
mp3 : Franz Ferdinand – Sound and Vision

I’m quite fond of the first two of the four featured above, not convinced by the third as I’ve no time for the original (albeit Mrs Villain is a fan of Gwen Stefani) while the latter is fun enough for the fact that Girls Aloud are on backing vocals!

I never ever got round to mentioning that the FFS project turned out to be one of the best surprises about 2015. The idea of Franz Ferdinand and Sparks combining into a supergroup for an album and live performances didn’t seem like a good idea when first mooted but then I gave the album a listen and was pleasantly surprised at how good it was but that was nothing compared to seeing them perform at the Glasgow Barrowlands which turned out to be a fun-filled and hugely entertaining gig. This was the night when I did truly understand the FF boys were born to do cover versions.

Watch this entire 70 minute performance while you have spare time over the festive period

You can perhaps do it tomorrow when I’m taking a day off blogging. I’ll be back on Saturday with the latest in the re-run of the 45s series

Happy New Year when it comes.

BB.C.FF.

BeastieBoys_3part-7-80s-chic4franz-ferdinand

I know….today’s heading is on the cryptic side. But it’s all to do with these three great tunes:-

mp3 : Beastie Boys – Triple Trouble
mp3 : Chic – Good Times (12″)
mp3 : Franz Ferdinand – Take Me Out

A few years back, someone out there had the idea of mashing these three up. It’s a style and format that has a lot of critics which is understandable as many of its proponents took liberty with one or more of the tracks, speeding it or them up or down a shade to make things fit. But today’s example does work out well with the minimum of jiggery-pokerey.

mp3 : BB.C.FF – Check Me Out 4 Good Times

Freaky Friday indeed.

TWO GREAT COVERS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE

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I’ll often defend Franz Ferdinand if anyone ever has a go at them. For one thing, their 2004 self-titled debut LP remains an excellent and consistent piece of work which deservedly made them not just media darlings but hugely popular with the record-buying public.

But the other thing that I loved about them at that time was their decision to record and release a limited edition 7″ single with Fire Engines, a great Scottish band from the 80s that I have been known to rave about over at the old blog.

It would have been quite easy for Franz Ferdinand to have simply paid lip service to the debt they owed Fire Engines for the spiky guitar sound that they do so well. But instead, they chose to bring a long overlooked act to the wider attention of the public with this particular collaboration which saw a hugely popular FF song covered by FE, and a much-neglected and wonderful FE song given the FF treatment:-

mp3 : Franz Ferdinand – Get Up And Use Me
mp3 : Fire Engines – Jacqueline

The single was never intended for general sale, but was available to buy at two gigs in December 1994 when Fire Engines opened for Franz Ferdinand. Sadly, it was a gesture not appreciated by the mob as this review from the time indicates:-

At the first of two hometown gigs to cap their annus mirabilis, they invited their favourite Scottish pop band of yore, The Fire Engines, to reform once more for the occasion. The Edinburgh post-punkers’ set flew right over most of the crowd members’ heads, so plastic beer glasses flew over the band members’ heads.

After a customarily pithy set, dedicated to John Peel “and anyone else who’s dead”, The Fire Engines departed to a chorus of boos, but to the core faithful, the spiky fuzz of Get Up And Use Me, the madly danceable New Things In Cartons and the almost conventionally melodic Meat Whiplash were still a buzz 25 years on.

The thing is, knowing how frontman Davey Henderson’s mind works, he’d have been rather pleased to have got such a reaction from such a mainstream audience….I don’t think he could have coped with being cheered off stage.  I was quite sad and disappointed that I couldn’t get a ticket as I’d have willingly risked injury going down the front and dancing away to the old guys and just as sadly, missing the gig meant I couldn’t get my hands on the tour single.  But then again I wouldn’t have enjoyed the thrill and excitement of seeing a copy for just £3 in a charity shop.

Oh and here’s yer originals:-

mp3 : Fire Engines – Get Up And Use Me
mp3 : Franz Ferdinand – Jacqueline

That’s why they only work when they need the money.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Part 46-50)

Back on 8 October 2011, I started a series called ‘Saturday’s Scottish Single’.  The aim was to feature one 45 or CD single by a Scottish singer or band with the proviso that the 45 or CD single was in the collection. I had got to Part 60-something and as far as Kid Canaveral when the rug was pulled out from under TVV.

I’ll catch up soon enough by featuring 5 or more at a time from the archives..

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(46) Endgames – We Feel Good (Future’s Looking Fine)  b/w Darkness : Mercury Records 7″ (1982)

Read more about Endgames here.

 

(47) Finley Quaye – Your Love Gets Sweeter (The Abbey Road Version) b/w Your Love Gets Sweeter (Album Version) b/w  Everybody Knows b/w Le Saint Des Delinquents : Epic Records : CD Single (1998)

Read more about Finley Quaye here

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(48) Fire Engines –  Big Gold Dream b/w New Thing In Cartons b/w Sympathetic Anaesthetic :  Pop Aural 12″ single (1981)

Read more about Fire Engines here

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(49) Foil – Reviver Gene b/w Sedate Me 13th Hour Recordings CD single (1997)

This is where I get pissed off that the old blog was so unceremoniously removed.  While I can get sight of, and cut’n’paste maybe around one-third of the old posts, it turns out that the ones that mean so much are the ones I can’t track down.  So it is with the original words that accompanied the posting on 14 January 2013.  Words penned by Hugh Duggie, the fromt man of Foil and a dear friend of Jacques the Kipper.

Instead you’ll need to make do with this:-

Foil were a guitar-pop band from West Lothian, Scotland; Their original lineup featured vocalist/guitarist Hugh Duggie, guitarist Colin McInally, bassist Shug Anderson, and drummer Jim Anderson. The group played its first gig at London’s Underworld in February 1996 and were immediately signed by 13th Hour, releasing the single “Reviver Gene” in July; however, the song did not really receive much airplay until its re-release in November 1997. The group’s debut album, Spread It All Around, was released in January 1998. In mid-2000, Foil issued follow-up LP Never Get Hip and broke up not long afterwards.

PS : It’s the November re-release that’s been posted. Cracking indie-rock single that has huge American influences…

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(50) Franz Ferdinand – Darts Of Pleasure b/w Van Tango b/w  Shopping For Blood : Domino CD single (2003)

I still love this debut single.  The b-sides are also hugely enjoyable and less commercial than the stuff that brought them success.

Parts  51-55 next Saturday…..

PENSIONER POP

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As has been widely reported this past week, 66 year old David Bowie has made the twelve-strong shortlist for the 2013 Mercury Prize.  It would therefore seem, as far as the critics and others who make up the Mercury judging panel that his latest LP, The Next Day, is one of the best 12 albums released in the UK this past year.

I can’t say whether this is the case, although I strongly suspect not.  I’m more inclined to think that his inclusion is more to do with giving a high media profile to this year’s award than the merits of what was his 26th studio LP.  The reason that I can’t say for sure is that I’ve given the LP a total bodyswerve, as I have all his new material ever since the travesty that was Tin Machine in the late 80s and early 90s.  If any of you have remained loyal and faithful to his output in recent years, please let me know if in fact the latest LP is worth investing in….after all, I’m going to be bombarded with it on displays any time I venture into any High Street music store between now and the awards ceremony at the end of October.

Bowie is a performer who I’ve long felt ran his course in the mid 80s.  Just about all of his albums from the 70s  have more than stood the test of time  – it should also be recognised just how prolific he was in that decade with an an album in every year except 1978 – but then again there had been two absolute classics in 1977 in the shape of Low and Heroes.  I also remain fond of parts of Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) from 1980.  The worldwide phenomena of Let’s Dance in 1983 was truly something to behold with the production and sound capturing the popular music of the era quite perfectly, albeit it was a long long way away from the music I was listening to.  It’s a recod which made Bowie the #1 box office attraction for a few years – the royalties from the classic rock stations playing the hit singles from that era must still be mega given how often I stumbled upon them during my recent few weeks in Canada.

My admiration for Bowie began to fall away around the time of Live Aid.  Many have said that he was one of the outstanding performers that day but I was disturbed by the fact that out of all his back catalogue he chose to perform Heroes and in a way that seemed congratulatory to all the rock stars who had shown up that day in London and Philadelphia.

What I find interesting about his career, which now spans a jaw-dropping 46 years, is that so many modern musicians cite him as a huge influence and have covered his songs, either in concert or as b-sides or album tracks.  But almost inevitably, these covers are of songs from the 60s and 70s with scant regard to the later material.  And instead of me posting some great songs from the 70s which I’m sure are well-known to all readers of this blog, I thought I’d share some of the covers I’ve most enjoyed:-

mp3 : Black Box Recorder – Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide

mp3 : Vivian Girls – John, I’m Only Dancing

mp3 : Billy Mackenzie – Secret Life of Arabia

mp3 : Franz Ferdinand – Sound & Vision

mp3 : Bauhaus – Ziggy Stardust

Actually, the only reason I’ve included that FF cover is that the dooh-doohs at the start are supplied by Girls Aloud…..very bizarre!

And here’s a cracking acoustic C&W version from Mr Bowie himself:-

mp3 : David Bowie – Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (live and acoustic)

Enjoy.