Off-key with Eric D: Franz Ferdinand

Eric D'Orazio

As many have come to realize, the British press loves to glorify new bands. Ranging from American imports such as The Strokes and The Rapture to the rip-off rock of Jet and The Darkness, these bands start out being earmarked as the hottest thing since grilled cheese and end up being equally stale a few months later. Though some bands have been able to escape that cliché, like The Vines, others have fallen down and withered away, like The Music. As of late, that practice of citing the “next big thing” is in full swing with respect to Scotland’s own Franz Ferdinand.

The story of Franz Ferdinand is quite an odd one to say the least. Forming after Mick Cooke from Belle and Sebastian gave lead singer Alex Kapranos a bass and told him to “do something useful with it,” Alex soon gave the bass to his friend Robert Hardy, and they decided to start a band. Soon enough, guitarist Nick McCarthy joined up, as did drummer Paul Thomson, and the foundations for the band were fixed.

Settling on the name Franz Ferdinand, after the early-20th century Austro-Hungarian archduke of the same name, the foursome played countless shows, most of which were fervent, charged, and based heartily in “music for girls to dance to.”

Within a year, they were picked up by Domino Recording Company, and the craziness commenced. Their hip look and smart sound almost immediately gained them popularity with the music press, who heralded the group as the UK’s response to The Strokes.

After rush-releasing two hit singles and launching through a series of headlining shows, the band procured their 11-track, eponymous debut, which all but engulfed the charts upon its release. With that record making its way onto American shelves this month, it’s quite certain that the Franz Ferdinand frenzy has all but begun.

Out of all the tracks that comprise the new debut from Franz Ferdinand, by far the most outstanding is “Take Me Out.” Dealing with the desperation that occurs when the one you admire won’t give you any attention, the song moves in and out of unabashed swagger and undeniable longing, thereby changing tempo and providing an interesting, if not overtly danceable, listen.

Opening with the line, “So if you’re lonely, you know I’m here waiting for you,” and later concentrating upon the idea that, “I know I won’t be leaving here with you,” the song comes about being both a love ballad and a nonchalant piece of hopeful acceptance. Having already been a big hit overseas, it’s quite obvious that “Take Me Out” has the potential to climb the charts here as well.

If “Take Me Out” is the ode to the significant other that cannot be obtained, then “The Dark of the Matinee” is the process by which that person is won over. Focusing upon the act of swooning someone over, the song speaks of timing (“every journey to bump into you, accidentally”) as well as trying “not to look at you in the shoe, but the eyes.”

Backed with a moving bassline, catchy guitars and a vocal that seemingly seethes with lustful desire, the song’s chorus directs one to “leave this academic factory, you will find me in the matinee, the dark of the matinee is mine.” Being in love never sounded so good.

Should one be looking for Franz Ferdinand’s most defining song, that which sums up their entire masterplan as a whole, they need look no further than “Darts of Pleasure.” Standing as the band’s first hit single and the title track on last year’s “Darts of Pleasure EP,” the piece deals with a similar feeling of unadulterated desire as heard throughout the rest of the album, but this time in a more physical sense.

Placing its focus upon “fantastic passion” and how “you can feel my lips undress your eyes,” the song all but warns of “words of love and words so leisured,” and that “words are poisoned darts of pleasure.” Rounding out the song’s catchiness is the fact that the band sings uniformly in German at the end. Without a doubt, “Darts Of Pleasure” is the most out-of-this-world three minutes you’ll hear this year.

Besides sounding a bit like The Strokes and having an odd obsession for the Austro-Hungarian Empire, things are looking good for Franz Ferdinand.

After all, they’re dashing, smashing, and cashing in on success, especially in the sense that they just signed a multi-million dollar deal with major label Epic.

In addition, they even managed to draw the most attention to their performance at the South by Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas, filling their venue with record numbers and leaving hundreds waiting outside.

Though this may prompt some to label them as yet another foreign sell-out band, take heart, for they really are the unique kick-in-the-behind that the American music scene has been waiting for. As their “Darts of Pleasure” so effectively points out, Franz Ferdinand is simply “superfantastisch!”