About three weeks ago, I had a sudden need to listen to some new music. I’d been listening to the same playlist in my office on the daily for almost a year, with only a couple of new additions every week.
Desiring a change of scene, I searched for Franz Ferdinand, and discovered they now have a new album out. And then, naturally, in the course of a day I became a Franzophile – thanks, Spotify! I’d been acquainted with some of their earlier material through the wonders of SingStar, and have thus had “Take Me Out” and “Do You Want To” on my iPod since 2006. We also had a copy of the band’s first album from 2004, Franz Ferdinand, but until the last few weeks I never really appreciated it. This is just a thing I do; the same happened with The Beatles in 2010. Regarding FF, whilst working my way through from 2004 to 2013’s Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, I suddenly realized what I’d been missing.
Franz Ferdinand is based in Glasgow and led by Alex Kapranos, who sings and plays lead guitar. An Arts graduate of the University of Strathclyde, Kapranos was a jack-of-all-trades before becoming a platinum-selling band member. His impressive and interesting vocals add much of the driving force to the band’s music. Kapranos is supported very effectively by Bob Hardy (bass guitar), Nick McCarthy (rhythm guitar, keyboards and backing vocals), and Paul Thomson (drums, percussion and backing vocals).
Perhaps it is just because I’m discovering them properly now, but I would argue that Franz Ferdinand have kept up a high standard across their four albums, and have survived the major shift towards dancefloor anthems in the last couple of years. The post-punk sound across most of their songs, coupled with an ability to write a very decent ballad and you have a cracking discography that is up there with The Beatles in scope. For example, whilst cleaning my office on my last day at my old job, I was ironically cranking “You Could Have It So Much Better”, and then later on I had “Eleanor Put Your Boots On” playing whilst having a phone conversation with a close friend and colleague, and suddenly realised the song was extra sad, whilst also needing to reassure my colleague I wasn’t sitting in my office, crying.
But enough reminiscence, I might actually cry. For this daggy writer, there are two major drawcards towards the music of Franz Ferdinand.
Firstly, the band’s best songs are filled to the brim with the catchiest guitar hooks ever written. Listen to “Take Me Out”…
…or the more recent “Bullet”…
…and now go buy them because you will want to listen to them again and again. I wish “Bullet” was just that one hook on a loop. As a colleague of mine at my new (old-old) job remarked to me today, “The best songs have great hooks.” I couldn’t agree more. It’s the same reason “I Feel Fine” is one of my favourite Beatles songs.
Secondly, there is a sense of irony that pervades the band’s music, communicated especially through their videoclips. The title of “Treason! Animals” exists solely to make a pun. The lyrics of “Michael” are intentionally sexually ambiguous, but only because Kapranos wanted to be cheeky. The recent single “Right Action”, a song about the lies people use in bad relationships, takes its first line from a postcard Kapranos found in a bookshop. Throughout the band’s videos, Kapranos leads the often wacky and retro-styled antics, most often with a knowing smile and raised eyebrow. This is a band that takes seriously not taking yourself too seriously. [Author’s note: that sentence does make sense, I swear]. I mean, what other band could get away with wearing horse head masks in a music video without losing credibility? The slightly goofy dance moves and post-modern video production of many of the band’s clips go hand in hand to gift wrap a fantastic musical package. I mean, look at all the Helvetica in “Right Action”:
I have much to thank my old job for, and I’m adding an appreciation of Franz Ferdinand to that list. You should check them out too.