Album: Franz Ferdinand

Franz Ferdinand, Domino
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The Independent Culture

With their constructivist sleeve-graphics and their name that harks back to the First World War, the Glaswegian quartet Franz Ferdinand might be construed as flaunting their essentially retro style. And it's certainly odd, in these post-Oasis times, for a band universally tipped as the future of rock to be quite so resolutely backward-looking in their approach.

Save for a smudge of dubby melodica on the last track and a few quaint organ fills on "Come On Home", FF restrict themselves on this debut album to the basic Beatles formula of two guitars, bass, drums and vocal harmonies, which they wield with the brittle urgency of new wave power-punk - the kind of thing played by chippy white chaps wearing skinny ties and tatty old school blazers back in the early 1980s. Even then it was a style of music regarded as irredeemably passé and unambitious, compared with the darker forces being unearthed by the likes of Joy Division on the one hand and The Human League on the other. Now it sounds so enthusiastically conformist that it's almost avant-garde.

To be fair, they make the most of their limited line-up, building songs on briskly scrubbed rhythm-guitar parts that recall Talking Heads and Wire, embellished here and there with the kind of tricksy guitar interplay employed so effectively by The Coral. And as long as the hooks and choruses remain suitably catchy, it's fairly effective. Songs such as "Jacqueline" and "Tell Her Tonight" vividly evoke the elation of a new romantic infatuation, the euphoria of the freshly smitten: "Only watched her walk, but she so is/ Only heard her talk, but she so is". "The Dark of the Matinee" neatly captures the thrill of covert carnal fumblings in a cinema: "Take your white finger/ Slide the nail under the top and bottom buttons of my blazer/ Relax and free them all". At least, it does until the protagonist suddenly winds up chatting to Terry Wogan on TV in the song's later stages; a puzzling development that requires a leap of poetic faith to accept.

But the deeper into the album one delves, the duller it becomes. Tracks such as "This Fire" and the gay love song "Michael" are little more than riffs; passable ideas that have been asked to shoulder too much weight. And the first time I heard the current single, "Take Me Out", I was convinced it was The Strokes - there's the same itchy rhythm guitars, the same forthright white-boy rhythm accentuating every beat, the same offhand vocal attitude, and the same restless anthemic quality to the hookline. Fine if you admire The Strokes, I suppose, but am I alone in suspecting that such a third-generation derivation, a copy of a copy, is hardly the firmest ground on which to pitch your hopes for the future?

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