Gang of four

At first, I made this snarky remark: “This band was more interesting when it was called Gang of Four”.

I didn’t go to Franz Ferdinand’s SXSW 2004 showcase — it was on the same night as Japan Nite. So I had no impression to inform me when the band’s self-titled debut album was released around the same time.

The Strokes had already worn out the novelty of aural photocopying, so when Franz Ferdinand compounded the antiquity of its ’80s sound with a lo-fi production quality, it came across as ungeniune.

But you got to hand it to these four lads — however much I loved to shite on their parade, I still kept spinning that album.

I justified the repeat listens as evaluation, careful studying to figure out what I was going to write, but really, it was writer’s block — something about the album impressed me even though this 20-year revival shtick doesn’t ring true with me.

Then I ran across the Killers.

When I figured out what made me get over my similar initial distate for the Killers — Oh, look! Analog synthesizers! How quaint! — I went back to Franz Ferdinand and finally put a finger to it.

And now I’m sorry I did miss that show because Franz Ferdinand sounds like they know how to fucking party.

That dull lo-fi finish on Franz Ferdinand, the album, cuts both ways.

On one hand, it’s a far more charming resurrection of a cheeky sound, and it’s way more convincing than the disconnected cool of The Strokes’ Is This It. (Man, I wish I could take back that review I wrote three years back.)

On the other hand, it doesn’t capture the full force of the band’s performances. That’s what was trying to reach out to me in all those spins.

The abandon of “This Fire”, the grandeur of “Darts of Pleasure”, the baudy lust of “Michael”, which actually convinced me to give the band another chance. (Because how cool is it for a band of straight guys to capture the essence of a night at a gay bar.)

There’s an atom bomb’s worth of energy on all of these tracks, but it’s all compacted.

But once the aurally picky can get past that wall, here be treasures waiting.

And even if Franz Ferdinand dips too deeply into the same well from which Gang of Four drank, the band knows how to write a damn catchy tune.

The moral of this story being: if you’re still on the fence about Franz Ferdinand, go back to them after you’ve experienced the Killers.

A little less specifically, Franz Ferdinand shares with the Killers the kind of palpable chemistry that powered the music of two decades ago. If they sound like their predecessors, it’s because they play the hell out of their instruments just like them.