So much can change in four years. Your approval ratings can drop 20 points, your hair can turn gray, or your band can go from worldwide domination to leftfield footnotes. In 2004, Franz Ferdinand could do no wrong: their nervous, aggressive dance-rock embodied the wary times, the neo-Soviet album art suddenly seemed fresh again, and they sure looked good in those tight-cut suits. While proclaiming they only got into music to “make girls dance,” their lyrics contained unexpected depths. “Michael” turned into a gay anthem, and the inescapable stomper “Take Me Out” turned out to be about lovers as snipers, daring each other to pull the trigger: “I know I won’t be leaving here / with you.” The song’s stunning musical twist, an exhilarating deceleration from new wave to hip-hop speed, seemed to hint at previously unexplored regions of rock innovation.
Their second album, You Could Have It So Much Better, was a quick follow-up, coming out in October, 2005, and the reaction, at least in the US, was like a dance party where you follow up the hit of the night with something totally wrong: the crowd makes a good effort, trying to adjust to the new tempo, but then decides maybe it’s time to grab a drink. “Do You Want To” seemed to invert the lyrical formula of the first album: supposedly a collection of overheard statements, it actually meant less than it seemed to, dissolving under close scrutiny.
So here we are, Franzie Boys. It’s 2008, and we’re wondering what’s up. We just read you’re making “dirty pop,” and all we can think about is that Christina Aguilera song. We saw in the NME that you’re working with Girls Aloud producer Brian Higgins (Girls Aloud being the hippest of the manufactured girl-group combos) and that intrigues and frightens us. We’re happy you say you’re “taking your time” but we’re a little worried about you. We see that you’re using weird vintage Russian synths, and again, we feel both excited and scared: what about the guitars? And, lead singer Alex Kapranos, we hear you say “for me, the imperfections are what makes it perfect, like the cheapest, shittiest guitars through practice amps,” and we think: “hooray?”
Franz Ferdinand’s as-yet-untitled new album is expected sometime in late spring or summer. Here’s some videos from the first two albums:
“Michael,” “Take Me Out,” from Franz Ferdinand, 2004
“Do You Want To,” “The Fallen,” from You Could Have It So Much Better, 2005