Showing posts with label franz ferdinand. Show all posts
Showing posts with label franz ferdinand. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

video review: 'always ascending' by franz ferdinand

So this... it took a while to really click, but I'm thrilled it did - definitely enjoyed it!

And on the topic of stuff I'm anticipating, we've got MGMT up next, so stay tuned!

album review: 'always ascending' by franz ferdinand

So okay, maybe it wasn't a good idea for The Wombats to release their newest groove-heavy, sleek indie rock record the very same day as Franz Ferdinand doing a very similar sound... 

Or at least that's what I was expecting. The truth is that while I was looking forward to this record even more than The Wombats, I also knew my expectations would have to be even further qualified - it's been five years since the last solo Franz Ferdinand project, and while their collaboration with Sparks in 2015 was certainly entertaining, it wasn't quite as tight or fun as Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action. And more even than that, Franz Ferdinand were fighting off the loss of their lead guitarist Nick McCarthy who was choosing to spend more time with his family, and a lot of bands really can't come back from that. Granted, calling back old 90s member Dino Bardot for guitar and recruiting remix artist Julian Corrie could have potential, and recruiting electronic musician Phillipe Zdar could have some potential, but all of it was reflecting a band focusing less on straightforward indie rock and more electronic tones. And while my concerns were not huge - they had Todd Terje work on their last record, it's clear they've got solid taste in electronic music - I will say I was a little skeptical, as my favourite Franz Ferdinand record remains You Could Have It So Much Better, and further pivots from rock could dampen some of that electric energy. Not quite the same as what happened to The Wombats, but similar in principle.

But again, these guys are veterans with a canny eye towards great songwriting, and this was one of my most hotly anticipated records of 2018 - did they stick the landing with Always Ascending?

Saturday, June 20, 2015

video review: 'ffs' by ffs (franz ferdinand & sparks)

Well, this was a tricky review to get out, but then again all of my reviews feel tricky these days.

Next up, Kacey Musgraves - stay tuned!

Friday, June 19, 2015

album review: 'ffs' by ffs (franz ferdinand & sparks)

I've talked a little about artistic team-ups before in this series, when two distinctive groups merge together to create a distinctly unique musical project. Sometimes the clash between the bands becomes the underlying arc of the album, like on the stunning performance art collaboration between Savages and Bo Ningen last year Words To The Blind. More commonly, one act tends to eclipse the others, especially when the styles of the two bands overlap. And with rare exception, that tends to be the older, more experienced act that takes dominance.

So on some level, when I heard about the planned collaboration between acclaimed, genre-bending cult band Sparks and indie rock group Franz Ferdinand, it almost seemed too obvious. Sparks had been a player in the first wave of glam, disco and synthpop, Franz Ferdinand had been one of the main frontrunners during the indie rock revival of the genres in the mid-2000s. Both featured frontmen who had a knack for overwritten, too clever by half lyricism that was always a little too hyperbolic and ridiculous for its own good and yet still manages to maintain its cool. Now Sparks has done everything as an act from changing genres about eight different times to releasing full on rock operas, and while the quality has been wildly uneven depending on the era, they've got nothing to prove. Hell, when Franz Ferdinand approached Sparks about the idea a decade, Sparks frontman Ron Mael sent Franz Ferdinand a demo titled 'Piss Off'.

But a decade later, with Franz Ferdinand maturing as a band and Sparks not having dropped any new material in about six years, they joined together into the supergroup FFS and dropped a self-titled record. And really, why not? For Sparks, it's a shot to introduce themselves to an audience who might never have heard of them, especially given the massive discography going back to the beginning of the 70s. And for Franz Ferdinand, it's a chance to work with long-time veterans and personal heroes and give them an excuse to get weird again. And while I absolutely adored Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action - which totally holds up as one of my favourite records of 2013 - Sparks might be able to add more focus to Franz Ferdinand's off-kilter experimentation. So, did FFS deliver?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

video review: 'right thoughts, right words, right action' by franz ferdinand

So, here's the video review to accompany the text. Quite happy with this one, all things considered, especially considering I'm posting it from vacation and didn't precisely have much time to put things together.

Oh, and the album's terrific, get it if you get the chance.

album review: 'right thoughts, right words, right action' by franz ferdinand

Now here’s something about the music industry that really gets on my nerves: when pop acts don't like to be called pop acts.

Oh sure, you get the acts that don’t care one way or another, but there are a number of acts – particularly in rock and R&B – who will always attempt to qualify their genre as anything besides pop music. And really, it’s not surprising why – many people tend to denigrate pop music simply because of their preconceptions regarding its genre, believing that it’s ephemeral, inconsequential, and stupid. Worse still, being branded a pop act is still used by some critics as a verbal shorthand to dismiss some acts out of hand without bothering to delve deeper into their ambitions or context.

And to me, this just seems goddamn wrong. Pop is a genre, not a qualifier, and it shouldn’t be used to denigrate an act one way or another, mostly because some of the best and most celebrated acts of all time have spent portions of their lifespans in the ‘pop’ consciousness. Just because said music might have a conventional structure or an accessible sound does not mean it can or should be castigated by critics who are constantly hunting for the newest eccentricity in the indie scene. In fact, I’d make the argument (again) that writing good pop music, the material that’s actually well-written and catchy and has staying power while remaining mainstream-accessible, is actually much more difficult than random independent experimentation, because you’re working within a framework that actively resists attempts to change or push boundaries. It’s also one reason I tend to like Lady Gaga’s writing methodology even if I don’t always like her music: she’s trying to make things weirder and more baroque, but she has the streak of populism to stay within the current pop consciousness.

So when I make the statement that Franz Ferdinand is an indie pop rock act, I don’t say it in order to blast the band. In fact, I’d make the argument that their pop-centric songwriting is one of the best features of their music and one of the factors that makes them the critically-acclaimed indie acts of the past decade, not to mention one of my favourites. This is a band that has a strong pop sensibility, particularly in the construction of their hooks, and they have the impeccable songwriting and energetic delivery that gives them a real presence in the pop landscape. Or, to put it as acclaimed critic Nathan Rabin described them:

Listeners might get older, but pop music always stays the same age. It’s never quite old enough to drink, legally that is. (But it still knows how to party!) The inclusion of Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out”... consequently feels like the birthday girl’s super-cool brother, who wears skinny jeans, does lot of coke, and spends several hours each morning trying to make his hairstyle look casual, crashing the party along with a smattering of his equally hip friends. It’s a terrific slice of 1979 New York (by way of Scotland)...

Pretty much, and indeed, if I was looking for an attitude to best describe Franz Ferdinand – that of a pop band with decidedly mature sensibilities and smarter songwriting – it would be that. So when the band exploded in 2004 (otherwise known as the first attempt for indie rock to break into the mainstream), it wasn’t really surprising that they were lumped with The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Killers, Modest Mouse, Arcade Fire, and others. Unlike most of the rest of these bands, Franz Ferdinand had a follow-up album waiting, and the second punch in 2005 with You Could Have It So Much Better was rougher, faster, and arguably even better. Like The Strokes on their first two albums, Franz Ferdinand had a unique sound (indie rock fused with a retro funk/disco blend that did ‘dance music with guitars’ far better than E.M.F. could have ever hoped for), hooks that were catchy as hell, and a lead vocalist with a lot of personality.

Unlike The Strokes, however, Franz Ferdinand were decent lyricists, and that led to their longevity persisting onto their third album Tonight: Franz Ferdinand in 2009, which many have deemed their weakest, yet still very strong in its own right. The songwriting was as strong as always, but to me the weaknesses were in the fact that the great hooks just weren’t there in the same way like they were back in 2004 or 2005. Sure, there was ‘Ulysses’ and ‘No You Girls’, but it started to feel like some of that spark was starting to fizzle. Worse still was the fact I got the feeling the band knew that spark was fading too, which led to their experimentation with electronic elements with mixed results.

So with all of that in mind, the band took another four years off and finally have come back with a new album this year. Has the time off been enough for the band to reclaim their spark?