The Scissor Sisters, Concorde 2, Brighton <br></br> Franz Ferdinand, Rock City, Nottingham

This is the cutting edge

Art Rock - art which rocks, rock which arts - is a concept which has been assimilated, accepted and digested for decades. Art Disco, by contrast, is still gazed upon with suspicion. And the two bands who will own 2004 - every bit as much as The Darkness owned 2003 (although in wildly differing ways) - are one of each.

Given what I have just written about Art Disco, New York's The Scissor Sisters ought by rights to be facing an uphill struggle. Au contraire. "I think we're in the Top 10," says co-singer Ana Matronic with mischievous glee. "The freaks are taking over!" She isn't kidding. Three-fifths homo, two-fifths hetero, The Scissor Sisters (named after a lesbian sexual position, and echoed in their fantastically literal logo) are fruity funk pranksters who come from the same New York performance art-shocker scene as Fischerspooner, and you can tell. Matronic has an intricate tattoo of exposed robotic innards on her shoulder. Fellow frontperson Jake Shears used to do a taste-free turn under the name Jason The Amazing Back-Alley Late Term Abortion, and wears a leather jacket so brief it's little more than a pair of conjoined sleeves, with a pink mink stole on one shoulder. That's fine, though, because Shears has a better body than Peter Andre in the same way that Kerry McFadden has a better body than Jordan: it's all real.

The pair of them make a fantastic Elton and Kiki - I keep expecting them to spar one another with "When I was down/ I was your clown!" - and that's an informed comparison. Half of the Sisters' set may consist of euphoric dancefloor-bait, but the other half recalls the seriously uncool Seventies singer-songwriter likes of Elton John, Andrew Gold and Gilbert O'Sullivan. They happily namecheck Billy Joel and Hall and Oates in interviews, and guitarist Del Marquis and keyboardist Babydaddy push their jacket sleeves up to the elbow, as though in homage.

They're thrilled to be in "Brighton by the sea," says Ana, "because it makes me feel like it's Coney Island, 1910. At which time, dressed like this..." - she gazes down at her boa and bustier - "I'd be a whore." She pauses for a moment, then adds, "Whores are people too..." Brighton has an important place in The Scissor Sisters' rise. The first time they crossed Britain's radar was last year, when the super-hip Hotel Pelirocco (the rock'n'roll hostelry with rooms themed around Leigh Bowery, Bettie Page and The Sex Pistols) included them on its compilation CD. The song in question was their cover of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb", which grafted the original's morose rehab lyrics onto a delirious disco track which echoed The Bee Gees, The Source and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. At the time of writing, "Comfortably Numb" is in the Top 10 singles chart.

They have plenty more where that came from, notably "Tits on the Radio", in which Ana declaims a lyric about the government-enforced ghettoisation of the drag scene in severe Grace Jones dominatrix tones. It simply has to be a single (if only to prove itself wrong).

In other cities, The Scissor Sisters inform us, they have provoked boob-bearing and willy-waving. But cut us some slack, it's February and that English Channel breeze bites. There is such a thing as uncomfortably numb...

If anything tells you how quickly things have moved for Franz Ferdinand, it's the clock. The big hand's on the seven, the little hand's on the four, and already the Glasgow quartet are onstage.

When the contracts for this year's NME tour were signed, Franz Ferdinand were contenders, nothing more. Suddenly, with a Top Five single on their hands, they find themselves playing a slot utterly incommensurate with their status.

On the steps of Rock City - and oh, what a joy it is to order a taxi driver to "Take me to Rock City!" - people waiting for their latecoming dates glance anxiously at their watches, and tap their feet like Sonic the Hedgehog does when you put him on pause. Inside the lobby, strong words are exchanged with the guardian of the guest list.

We can all hear the muffled thud as Franz Ferdinand's runaway hit single, the "Take Me Out" is slowing down from its false beginning (what a simplicity-is-genius idea it is to write a song with a false beginning) to its irresistible romp-stomp.

Bouncers are barged aside, staircases are vaulted. No time for the bar, no time for the cloakroom - there's a backflood of bodies at both when FF's short seven-song set reaches its finale ("Darts of Pleasure", their warning-shot of a debut single).

Why the stampede? The reasons are several. For one thing, there's the fact that Franz Ferdinand don't only aspire to make "music for girls to dance to" - a noble and honourable manifesto pledge for any pop group - but they live up to it, their Nouveau New Wave sound, steel-bright and stiletto-sharp, with an overwound clockwork urgency, acting as a vehicle for some murderously memorable melodies.

Secondly - and one feels almost quaint saying this, in this day and age - we have the lyrics. Along with British Sea Power, Franz Ferdinand have revived the art of great British male lyric writing. Alex Kapranos's rich, romantic language (matinees and ricochets, crosshairs and passion) is reminiscent of The Smiths with the celibacy abandoned and the sex reinstated (yes, you feel that FF will mean that much to their admirers). FF's two "name" songs show an uncanny perceptiveness and a streak of daring. "Jacqueline" examines unrequited lust through the viewpoint of an older man looking at a 17-year-old: "Sometimes these eyes forget the face they're peering from..." Meanwhile, "Michael" shows they are unafraid to explore homoeroticism: "Michael, you're the boy with all the leather hips, sticky hair, sticky hips, stubble on my sticky lips..." Thirdly - and this never does any harm - Franz Ferdinand have got the look. Alex Kapranos has this year's finest cheekbones, and it's surely only a matter of time before he's turning down modelling contracts, acting in indie movies and getting married to Maggie Gyllenhaal (and breaking every female heart, as well as every male one).

s.price@independent.co.uk

The Scissor Sisters: Academy 2, Birmingham (0121 262 3000), tonight; Charlotte, Leicester (0116 255 3956), Mon; Downstairs at the Zodiac, Oxford (01865 420042), Tue; Hop and Grape, Manchester (0161 275 2930), Thur. Franz Ferdinand: Cardiff University (029 2023 0130), tonight; HMV Oxford Circus, London W1 (020 7631 3423), Mon

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