Musings on music delivered when I dig myself out.

Franz Ferdinand -- Franz Ferdinand
Domino Records; 2004

Alex Kapranos, guitarist and lead singer of the Scottish band Franz Ferdinand, has been quoted as saying, "We don't use any [effects] pedals or any of that rubbish. Pedals are for people who can't write good tunes." Although I'm not sure whether or not I agree with that, I can say this: Kopranos is at least correct in relation to his own band. Franz Ferdinand, the band's full length debut is prime evidence of this theory's accuracy -- a stunningly simple platter of post-punk gems.

Franz Ferdinand brings together all the ingredients one needs for post-punk: guitars that can disco, bass that can bounce, and hi-hats that clench open and shut on backbeats. By themselves, these would be nothing special. What ties this all together is unbelievably catchy songwriting. Kapranos and lead guitarist Nick McCarthy have a real knack for writing rhythms and melodies that hook into the listener's brain and leave them dancing in delirium.

Take for example "Take Me Out," their first single off the self-titled album. The song starts out with steady guitar lines and persistent drumming, then WHAM! 50 seconds in, the original song structure strips away and a monster disco smash is in its place, dicing guitars leading the stomping conga line. The infectious chorus (and its variations) of "I say don't you know / You say you don't know / I say take me out" is sure to get even the dullest of mopes to tap a foot.

What's fantastic about Franz Ferdinand is that it's not just one or two pretty great songs wading among nine other bits of filler -- it's all delectable. "Tell Her Tonight" is an angular romp that contains both sneering calls and Beach Boys-influenced three part harmonies. Album opener "Jacqueline" springs from acoustic lullaby to jet-propelled scorcher, providing us with the album's greatest line: "That's why we only work when / we neeeeed the money!" Even "Cheating on You," the album's weakest track is a treat; using lyrics so simple that one can't help but think it's all a bit of satire about pop music.

As if it weren't enough to help write 11 mind-numbingly catchy songs, Kapranos shows off his literary skills as well, penning illustrative lyrics that flesh out each tune. His masterpiece is "The Dark Of the Matinee," a tune about flirting at school, containing the astute lyrics "You take your white finger / slide the nail under / the top and bottom buttons / of my blazer / Relax the fraying wool / slacken ties...." The song even serves as a jibe to hipsters with "I charm you and tell you / of the boys I hate/ all the girls I hate.../ How I'll never be what I hate;" poking fun at their silly pretensions.

The boys in FF are equal opportunity lovers too, it seems, or at least not afraid to play up a lil' bit of homoeroticism. "Michael" is a sweaty cavort in the disco that takes root from both Bowie and George Michael. The song would have fit perfectly in the 1970's sexual liberation, using lyrics like "This is what I am / I am a man / so come and dance with me Michael."

Franz Ferdinand is as solid a debut full-length as any band could hope for. The members of Franz Ferdinand have stuffed their album to the seams with ear-catching melodies, hooks, and body-movin' rhythms, all while keeping it simple. With this album as such a high water mark for the band, it makes one wonder whether or not they'll be able match such great expectations in the future. If you want my prediction, I'd tell you this: if Kapranos and Co. stick with their current course, they're going to be putting out "good tunes" for quite awhile.

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