A Band You Wish You Hated

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When I first heard about Franz Ferdinand, I nearly cried with joy. Pop music is a disparate world. Consensus is hard to come by. But this band — well, I was pretty sure people of all colors and creeds would rise up as one in hatred of it. Franz Ferdinand is a Scottish foursome that started playing together after a lengthy argument about the essence of art. The name is a tribute to the archduke whose assassination triggered World War I, and early gigs were Andy Warhol — style happenings at a Glasgow warehouse during which audience members were provided with air rifles and rocking horses as a Dadaist joke.

My dream of America finding unity in its scorn for these avant-garde turkeys lasted until the moment I heard their music. It turns out Franz Ferdinand plays easily accessible radio-friendly pop, and plays it with more humor and joy than almost anyone else on the market. This band is really good. It's a little disappointing.

For about 70 seconds you could mistake Franz Ferdinand for the Strokes. Take Me Out, from the group's March 9 self-titled debut, opens with a standard modern-rock guitar riff and studiously disinterested vocals from singer Alex Kapranos. Then the pace shifts, the guitar goes punk, the rhythm section goes disco, and Kapranos goes nuts. He's singing about how he would rather be shot than live without his girl, but Kapranos doesn't get overwrought. He doesn't really sing either — he swings, like Dean Martin on uppers.

If you ever get beyond the disco thrash, you'll discover that the lyrics are frequently quite clever. Jacqueline is about an older man realizing that a younger girl is out of bounds, Michael is a sad bit of homoeroticism, and Tell Her Tonight gets at the fumbling language of infatuation ("Only watched her walk but she so is/Only heard her talk but she so is"). Franz Ferdinand isn't out to make poetry; these musicians are out to make you move your feet, and their giddy soul is revealed in every trick they use to get the job done. Pace shifts are everywhere; they crib harmonies from the Beatles and bass lines from Kool & the Gang. To close the ebullient Darts of Pleasure, they sing in German. They can be arch, but they are not elitists, and they are way too exuberant to be judgmental. Unlike some people.