Being a pop music contrarian can’t be easy. What a subtle sense of timing and skill it must take to jump off Band X’s bandwagon at some point right after the first LP is released and starts getting promoted on Insound. But then, it also takes an equally intuitive sense to jump back on the bandwagon right after the hipsters start slagging Band X off and their first LP starts getting featured on the “Buzz” channel on American Airlines’ in-flight entertainment system. It’s sort of like being a hata, and then being a hata hata. And then being a hata hata hata, if needed.
20 Jan 2004: Northsix Brooklyn, New York
I must admit, as much as I don’t like to think of myself as a contrarian, I already had one leg hanging over the side of the wagon before Franz Ferdinand even took the stage on Tuesday night. It’s curious how a band with just one EP and one single out could already be so hyped as to possibly inspire a contrarian position in me. (Can someone please put the NME out of its misery?) But I’ve been listening to “Take Me Out” so much that I’m becoming suspicious of myself, I was secretly hoping to hear the B-side “All for You Sophia” at the show, and I know the Morgan Geist re-version on a massive sound system would have me hopping like a Saint Bernard in da club. So for me, the relevant question of the evening was this here wagon, and whether I’d pull my leg back up and in, or if I was prepared to brace myself and jump off.
Northsix was sweltering, due to the packed house and the fact that no one took their jackets off. I was still recovering from a fairly nasty case of the flu, and I noted between coughs that there was a guy with a trucker cap standing to the right of me. But by the time Franz Ferdinand launched into their first number, this reviewer’s cold, cold heart was warmed by the sight of a group of grinning Scots who weren’t afraid to look or act like they were enjoying themselves, a refreshing alternative to the calculated façade practiced by their oft-compared contemporaries, Interpol (Lighten up boys, there’s a new Joy Division box set out. I think it comes with a T-shirt.). That, and the fact that Franz Ferdinand’s peculiar brand of indie seems to derive more of its aesthetic from Postcard than Factory (check out their clothes if you need any further convincing). “Tell Her Tonight” was manic, its weird amalgamation of the usual post-punk suspects and ‘60s garage rock heavily accentuated by some off-kilter whooping and screaming. Other highlights: “Better on Holiday” and its piercing, sassy breakdown, Alex Kapranos and Nick McCarthy “jamming” with their backs to each other like C.C. and Bobby in the “Unskinny Bop” video, the goofy coda to “Darts of Pleasure”, and when the trucker hat guy finally left the floor. There were periods of tedium scattered throughout the performance—as likable as they are, Franz Ferdinand still don’t have enough decent or memorable tunes to fill an entire set or LP. But all was forgiven with “Take Me Out”, a true pop gem that brings to mind an unholy pact between Josef K, Gary Glitter, Led Zeppelin (“Trampled Underfoot” if you must), and Neil Young; the stomping chorus whipped the crowd into such a (relative, these are indie kids we’re talking about) Ziggy Stardust-like frenzy that I was afraid there would be a riot if I told them the bar had run out of Rheingold.
So let’s say for the time being, this sometime contrarian is staying on the Franz Ferdinand bandwagon. But if I hear another reference to them as the “British Strokes”, I swear I’m jumping off.