Franz Ferdinand – S/T

As much as critics like me like to harp on innovation and genre-bending, we all love a good rock “n’ roll tune. Enter Franz Ferdinand: there’s nothing extrinsically special about this music at all. One could say that it combines post-punk, dance-punk, and garage rock into one neat little crepe: seemingly the perfect recipe for public digestion (only 2 net grams of carbs!). Uniformity notwithstanding, there is a fervent charm to this band’s self-titled debut full-length that allows a new band in a tired genre to transcend its bounds without necessarily innovating much at all (see also: The Wrens).
The album opens by tricking the listener with a few acoustic plucks. Soon enough, a Turbonegro-esque riff caterwauls in, cascading in upon itself. The drama is palpable as “Jacqueline” rears its head. It’s obvious that the music is not startlingly different from anything you’ve heard before, but at the same time, each Ferdinand is a master in his own craft. “Tell Her Tonight” is a playful nugget of cymbal-riding, bass-heavy dance-punk. “Take Me Out” is a lumbering, persistent song built upon a standard bass-snare lick and some deft guitar work. “Auf Asche” heightens the theatrics more, featuring a dramatic chorus: “She’s not so special now / look what you’ve done, boy.” I could go on for a while, describing each song, remarkable for its excellence and not its originality.
Most of the album is spent riding the cymbals and dance beats of the excellent drums while the bass and dual guitars intertwine, weaving a web of dexterous dance-punk and good ol’ rock. Nothing strays too far from the formula; the closest thing to a down-temp song on Franz Ferdinand is “Come on Home,” a mid-tempo, rolling pop gem. The lyrics are saturated with understanding and wit; Alexander Kapranos sings with equal parts humor and melancholy, deftly expressing the ins and outs and ups and downs of relationships. Much of the lyrical content consists of detached lamentation on the seeming boringness of life: “So I’m on BBC2 now / telling Terry Wogan / how I made it out / what I made is unclear now… / my words and smile are so easy now.” These words perfectly complement the music: not overtly depressing, but devastatingly stunning in their simplicity.
Franz Ferdinand has already been called a lot of things in the great buzzworks of underground criticism: the Scottish Interpol, The Rapture with a deeper voice, Liars lite, et al. Not surprisingly, all of these descriptions probably are apt (to whatever degree), but in the end it really doesn’t matter. When the sun sets, Franz Ferdinand will be remembered not for the band’s lack of outright innovation but a haunting perfection of the genre.