franz ferdinand

Franz Ferdinand gets back to dance basics

in Culture by

Too sexy for their art

In a world gone mad with retro, at least one band does the ’80s justice. The reigning archdukes of British pop, Franz Ferdinand, are bringing their sexually potent mix of punk-rock laced with disco to Prague, preceded by an avalanche of hype. The band has been ordained as nothing less than “the next saviors of indie rock” by the British press, and has had a meteoric rise up the charts with their self-titled debut record.

Franz Ferdinand’s music falls somewhere between the new wave of New Order and the dark-edged no wave of Gang Of Four and A Certain Ratio. Tracks like “Take Me Out” are reminiscent of the Clash, but the music has much more in common with Blondie than Mick Ronson. After scores of melancholic Radiohead-wannabe bands, Franz Ferdinand’s sexy, dance floor-friendly approach is a welcome change.

The driving force of the band is bassist Robert Hardy, whose pulsating bass lines propel dance tracks like the first single, “Darts of Pleasure.” Rounding out the group are guitarist Nick McCarthy, drummer Paul Thomson and singer/guitarist Alex Kapranos.

The quartet formed in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2001 and quickly decided on a sound and a direction, which Kapranos has chanted like a mantra ever since: “To make girls dance.” Fittingly, their first gig was an art exhibition in a girl named Celia’s bedroom. After a slew of illegal shows in an abandoned warehouse, the group’s street cred was established, then legitimized by a deal with indie label Domino Records in 2003.

“Darts of Pleasure” was released in early September last year, and charted in the U.K. Top 10 a week later. After the second single, “Take Me Out,” rocketed to similar success, Sony/Epic swooped in with a $1 million-plus deal to license the sale of Franz Ferdinand records in the United States.

The band’s debut album may clock in at only 38 minutes, but it has been critically acclaimed as a masterpiece of punk-infused disco — or new new wave, as the genre-keepers have so tagged it. What distinguishes the sound on the charts (and in the hardened hearts of music critics) is Kapranos’s sexually charged lyrics, as when he croons in “Darts of Pleasure”: “You can feel my lips undress your eyes.”

Nor is the band’s sex appeal limited to heterosexuality. The newest single, “Michael,” has caused a stir by graphically describing boy-on-boy action at a dance club: “A sexy boy with leather hips/feeling his stubble on your sticky lips.”

Style is what sells this band. They are fashion-conscious Glaswegians who have attended the finest of art schools. But underneath the Christian Dior model look, Franz Ferdinand has substance. The group can be spot-on with criticism of modern British society, as in the thoughts of office worker “Jacqueline,” who is dreaming of holidays: “I’m alive/And how I know it/But for chips and for freedom/I could die.”

Much of what the band plays at Roxy may sound vaguely familiar. But when Franz Ferdinand launches into its infectious grooves, even skeptical hipsters get out on the dance floor.

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