While the Darts of Pleasure EP proved that Franz Ferdinand had a way with equally sharp lyrics and hooks, and the "Take Me Out" single took their sound to dramatic new heights, their self-titled debut album offers the most expansive version of their music yet. From the first track, "Jacqueline," which begins with a brooding acoustic prelude before jumping into a violently vibrant celebration of hedonism, Franz Ferdinand is darker and more diverse than the band's previous work suggested. "Auf Ausche" has an unsettling aggression underneath its romantic yearning, its cheap synth strings and pianos underscoring its low-rent moodiness and ruined glamour. And even in the album's context, "Take Me Out" remains unmatched for sheer drama; with its relentless stomp and lyrics like "I'm just a cross hair/I'm just a shot away from you," it's deliciously unclear whether it's about meeting a date or a firing squad. The wonderfully dry wit the band employed on Darts of Pleasure's "Shopping for Blood" and "Van Tango" is used more subtly: the oddly radiant "Matinee" captures romantic escapism via dizzying wordplay. "Michael," meanwhile, is a post-post-punk "John, I'm Only Dancing," by equal turns macho and fey; when Alex Kapranos proclaims "This is what I am/I am a man/So come and dance with me, Michael," it's erotic as well as homoerotic. Love and lust make up a far greater portion of Franz Ferdinand than any of the band's other work; previously, Franz Ferdinand's strong suit was witty aggressiveness, and the shift in focus has mixed results. There's something a little too manic and unsettled about Franz Ferdinand to make them completely convincing romantics, but "Come On Home" has swooning, anthemic choruses guaranteed to melt even those who hate swooning, anthemic choruses. Fortunately, the album includes enough of their louder, crazier songs to please fans of their EPs. "Darts of Pleasure" remains one of the best expressions of Franz Ferdinand's shabby glamour, campy humor, and sugar-buzz energy, and "Tell Her Tonight," which debuted on the Darts of Pleasure EP, returns in a full-fledged version that's even more slinky, menacing, and danceable than the demo hinted it might be. And if Franz Ferdinand's aim has always been to get people dancing, then "Cheating on You"'s churned-up art punk and close, Merseybeat-like harmonies suggest some combination of slam dancing and the twist that could sweep dancefloors. Despite its slight unevenness, Franz Ferdinand ends up being rewarding in different ways than the band's previous work was, and it's apparent that they're one of the more exciting groups to come out of the garage rock/post-punk revival. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi
Track samples provided courtesy of iTunes
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