If you read this page with any regularity, you’ll know I love to talk about debut albums, so here’s another one. Franz Ferdinand release their latest album, Always Ascending today. Fourteen years ago, February 9, 2004, they released their self-titled debut to massive acclaim. And well-deserved, too – I came to this album late, through channels I don’t remember, but goddamn, what a fantastic effort these lads put forth.
Every song on this album is a winner. By 2004 I’d given up on commercial radio and I’d mostly eschewed even college radio by that point, so I had, at the time, no idea what were singles and what were album tracks; by the time I got around to listening to the album in its entirety, it was one massive thirty-nine minute single to my way of thinking. Fourteen years later it’s impossible to recall if lines like, “It’s always better on holiday,” “We only work when we need the money,” “I’m telling Terry Wogan how I made it,” “I know I won’t be leaving here with you,” or “Good-bye girl, you know it’s only love,” are from hits or deep cuts.
And it doesn’t matter. The whole album has the massive weight of a solid fuel thruster and as much propellant power. Hailed as among the best examples of the neo-garage, post-punk music of the new millennium, it is one electrical jolt after another as Alex Kapranos bellows and shouts and croons over some of the most raucous-yet-melodic rock’n’roll of the young century.
And they weren’t young men, either – no teen heart-throbs, these – they were all in their late twenties to early thirties by the time the album hit the street. That’s part of its appeal: Alex has an easy cleverness to his lyrics informed by experience and subtle sophistication. His band members and co-writers are all experienced songsters & musicians at this point. It makes for a remarkably fully-realized and mature sounding debut.
It’s difficult to pick standout tracks on this record. As I mentioned, it all blends into one long, urgent, throbbing, pounding single for me. (Yes, I’m aware of the way those particular adjectives go together.) I will say that I think “Tell Her Tonight” and “This Fire” were the first songs I heard from the album and they both caught my ear, as did “40′,” which I heard around the same time. Beyond that, the cocky snark of “Take Me Out” is endlessly appealing, as is the John-I’m-Only-Dancing homoeroticism of “Michael.” But throughout, there is no song that falls below the level of excellent; while, over time, I’ve come to know which songs were singles and which were not, every damn song on this record could have held its own in the Top 40 on either side of the pond.
It’s Friday afternoon. There’s a weekend on the horizon. Do yourself a favor – pour yourself too much of something strong and cheap, gather some of your ruffian friends from yesteryear, and turn up the stereo on what rock-and-roll sounded like a decade-and-a-half ago. You’ll be pleased you did.