Music Features

Happy Anniversary... Franz Ferdinand

It was early 2004. Bands and artists of genres not immediately classifiable as the ubiquitous Top 40 hip-hop variety were faced with the predicament of trying to find their place in an oversaturated, over-hyped and increasingly artificial music industry. It was more than just a dispiriting state of affairs—it was a boring one. What to do? What to dance to? 

Four boys from Glasgow had the answer, and it came in the form of a forty minute sonic shindig replete with glowing guitar jams and unbridled cocky charm. Enter Franz Ferdinand, who decked their eponymous debut with a Russian avant-garde aesthetic and copped the Austrian Archduke’s name so convincingly it might have alerted a few academically challenged fans to the very existence of the man whose murder changed modern history. That in itself is just one of the reasons why Franz Ferdinand earns and deserves every minute of our attention, ten years later.

Take Me Out gets all the fame, of course, and why shouldn’t it? That shining intro, that opening chord sequence, pulsating as Alex Kapranos’ voice dips and rises and sings of cross-hairs, daring us to keep listening until we reach the single most rewarding riff that ever did teach an underwhelming, disappointed generation how to headbang. Most bands would be happy with a song half as good as this one, and many listeners would be perfectly fine with songs far worse. But Franz Ferdinand isn’t a record about ‘happy’, or ‘perfectly fine’, or even good songs. 

It’s an album of desirous looks and endless hooks, utterly imbued in its own confidence. “You can feel my lips undress your eyes,” Kapranos croons in Darts of Pleasure as the guitars release currents of spunk and pure electric energy. Those guitars: they can simmer temporarily in the background or they can ram into the vocals like a proud child of post-punk. But they can also give way to a delightfully tawdry combination of cheap keyboards and strings, such as the ones on display in Auf Achse. It sounds like a statement but, in an surprising act of self-parody, it plays like a hilarious homage to that one track every puffed up modern rock band has to include in their albums, that one song that tries to be more than it is. And there’s the thrill of it; Franz Ferdinand is the sound of a band playing around with their own persona and then transcending it, a quality ultimately responsible for the record’s long-lasting appeal and impact in a music industry that seems about fifty years older. 

In many ways their virtue also lies in the ability to delay until the very end any kind of definition we might impose upon their music, and even then we’re not quite sure. What is Michael? A homoerotic ode to dancefloor lust? A tongue-in-cheek portrayal of the band themselves, complete with the glammed-up suits, square-toed loafers and hipster smolder (that the present-day Arctic Monkeys seemed to have perfected as well)? Every track is rooted in the same skeleton: quick, bold and funky, but what is most compelling is how the lyrics of ambivalent yet undeniable passion work to undermine this template. As the final verse of Come On Home says, “Come on home/ But don’t forget to leave.” In anyone else’s hands and on any other album, that line would have been laughable. But Franz Ferdinand know their music - and their audience - too well. They know we never would have left. 

But in the end the aim, they said, was to make a record girls could dance to. That they did, and spectacularly so. Girls and everyone else.