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Old 04-18-2005, 04:50 AM   #1
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A Look At: Franz Ferdinand*

By Carrie Alison, Chief Editor

At the risk of sounding horribly cliché and uncreative, Franz Ferdinand's fire is truly out of control. This gang of four slinky guys is the hottest, hippest band going these days as the awards and accolades just keep coming for these platinum-selling Scots. An amazing feat, to be sure, for a band that has been together for less than four years and naming itself after the Austro-Hungarian archduke whose assassination launched World War I.

Having met in 2001 through various connections at the Glasgow School of Art, and knowing that they wanted to "make music girls could dance to," the members of Franz Ferdinand—singer Alex Kapranos, guitarist Nick McCarthy, bassist Bob Hardy and drummer Paul Thomson—used an abandoned warehouse as their HQ and dubbed it The Chateau in the spring of 2002. As is often the case when young people get hold of a big space ideal for rowdy and wild parties, the band's good times only lasted so long and soon the cops came knocking. The band then decamped to more serious digs, including an abandoned Victorian courthouse and jail, and promptly got down to business.

In summer 2002, the band recorded the "Darts of Pleasure," an EP containing the songs "Darts of Pleasure," "Van Tango" and "Shopping for Blood" that Franz Ferdinand intended to self-release. Destiny was at the cards, however, and local word of mouth soon spread of the band's jangly, danceable tunes. By the following summer, Franz Ferdinand was signed to small, yet influential, independent label Domino Records, home of Sebadoh's Lou Barlow, Pavement's Stephen Malkmus and the late Elliott Smith.

"Darts of Pleasure" was released in the fall of 2003, soon bringing Franz Ferdinand comparisons to Interpol and the Strokes. The band landed an opening spot on Interpol's tour, giving it a larger audience and more buzz. In early 2004 the world got a taste of the irrepressible and addictive smash hit single, "Take Me Out." The British press immediately jumped on the Franz Ferdinand party train, elevating it to the stratospheric heights new bands dream about over their shelf life. Franz Ferdinand had managed to achieve über-stardom just two years into its professional career.

Released in the late winter of 2004, the band's full-length debut "Franz Ferdinand" hit big and the momentum generated by praise from all corners hasn't stopped yet. Reviews for the album yielded the kind of worship that makes you sweat, and also found a smorgasbord of ways to describe Franz Ferdinand's sound, including "oily brand of angular pop," "joyously sleazy art pop," and the overused "post-punk" designation. Kapranos, however, feels his band makes pop music and is not embarrassed to say so. "The best moments in pop music are when outsiders come into the mainstream," the singer told Rolling Stone. "We're playing pop music, the same way that Nirvana was a pop band and the Shangri-Las were a pop band."

Breaking North America (as many British bands dream of when first starting out) proved to not be the arduous uphill battle that bands like Blur and the Libertines have experienced. All-important airplay on MTV was sured-up with the angular, eye-catching and artful video for "Take Me Out" that went on to win the Breakthrough Video award at 2004's MTV Music Video Awards. Rock and pop radio stations alike embraced the contagiously sexy song that kept club goers and hipsters alike on the dance floor throughout the summer.

The rest is awards-laden history. The album would go on to win the Mercury Music Prize, a prestigious UK industry award that pitted the band against teen soul sensation Joss Stone, rap superstar The Streets, and buzz bands Snow Patrol and Keane in September, with awards from GQ and top British music magazine Q following a month later.

The band's explosive and landmark year would close out in a way that its members would have never dreamed—Grammy nods for Best Short Form Video (pitting the band against U2), Best Rock Performance (another category U2 also nominated in) and Best Alternative Album. The following months found Bono worrying that U2 might lose its Best Band in the World crown to Franz Ferdinand, even declaring on British music television show "CD:UK" that, "…Franz Ferdinand should be confident. But we are not going to make it easy for them. We're going to make their lives miserable for the next few years."

If it's true that you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer, then U2 is very wise to bring Franz Ferdinand on board for an opening slot on the Vertigo Tour for a handful of European dates this summer. If you're lucky enough to catch one of these appearances remember to bring your dancing shoes, you're in for a real "angular pop" party.

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Old 05-02-2005, 02:12 PM   #2
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