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Tuesday, October 4, 2005

'I Want A Car' or 'Why Franz Ferdinand Are Probably Going To Be The Best Band In The World If They're Not Already'
It's been awhile. Too long in fact. We were going to mock the disturbing self-grandiosity of the Canadian music industry or post some unintentionally hilarious comments from the people who bring you Nickelback, but figured that both were among the last things that should be brought any more attention than they've already received. We also didn't make it to Pop Montreal.

So.

We thought we'd return with our least daring opinion yet. That being this: That Franz Ferdinand are quite possibly the Best Band In The World. (We told a friend that yesterday and were told that we really only liked them because they were skinny and hip, like us. We told said friend they were half-right. Ba-da-bing.)

We were going to offer this earlier, but wanted to hold off until we'd at least heard the new record once through. We now have. Not that it mattered. Because our mind was made up with the video for Do You Want To, in which the four lads finish with a finely choreographed strut-and-point. It is arguably the clumsiest thing on MuchMusic this side of Devon's periodic attempts at facial hair. Just keep your eyes on the chap on the right, the boy-faced one who looks like the sort to enjoy pudding more than most men his age. It's something the Beatles would have done. Or something we imagine the Beatles would have done.

Actually, while we're on the subject, let's up the ante: Franz Ferdinand are the closet thing we have at this very moment to the Beatles. (Which is not to be confused with the closet thing we have at this very moment to how the Beatles sounded.)

What the Beatles and Franz Ferdinand share is the rare ability to be serious about their art without taking their particular art terribly serious (the White Stripes are wildly under-rated in this regard - Jack White almost surely laughs at his own attempts at facial hair far more than you'd think). For sure, there is a balance to be maintained here. Too much fun and you're Moxy Fruvous. Too much seriousness and you're, uh, Moxy Fruvous. (And yet, Moxy Fruvous were not the perfect band. Discuss.)

Most great bands have ample amounts of both, but tip slightly in one direction or the other. Radiohead, too serious. Oasis, too fun. U2, currently too serious. Same with Green Day, once too fun, now too serious.

The Arcade Fire? Sure you (and us) probably find them terribly fun. But let's be serious. They're rather serious sorts. Coldplay? They think they're terribly fun. They are mistaken. Wilco? Probably more fun than you'd think, but still rather serious. The Flaming Lips? Their fun is often almost over-bearing.

And so forth. Feel free to play this game at home with your friends - almost every band that ever existed, even the best ones, were slightly imbalanced (and, yes, fans, friends and former editors will likely complain at this point that "balance" is an idea we return to far too often... we realize that, but really mean it this time).

Except the Beatles. Sure, sometimes they were having too much fun. And sometimes they were far too interested in discovering new levels of consciousness (through drugs, religion, or facial hair). But. When they were at their best (which was roughly 85% of the time), they were perfectly balanced - thinking all sorts of serious thoughts about pop music, expression and the essence of humanity, then having a good laugh over something terribly witty that George said (probably at Ringo's expense).

Of course, Franz Ferdinand are not the Beatles. They're just closer than anybody else is at this point in time.

Do You Want To is probably the best example of this. Or at least the most readily obvious for our purposes. You could probably round-up a bunch of high school kids and some Peach schnapps, play this record and have a half-decent, if not-entirely-legal, party. It is, quite simply, a good time.

And yet there is the homoeroticism ("Your famous friend, well I blew him before you") and the fact that it's essentially about the sort of arty parties the band used to frequent and organize in its early days. Later there's the song about the girlfriend from that very serious band. And lots of talk about dictators and Winston Churchill. And the fact that the album cover features their "trademark Bauhaus lettering." And that the album's title is inspired by some guy named Harold Macmillan (see here, we had to).

Maybe because of this, and their sometimes obvious influences (real or imagined), they often get tagged as one of those bands that comprises "the best bits from rock history." The critical equivalent of a chocolate sundae. Or assorted sub. Or something. But Franz Ferdinand are even better than that because they also throw in the worst bits. For instance, we were listening to the third track on the album this morning on the way to work and it suddenly struck us that Alex sounds disturbingly like Jeff Martin from the Tea Party. It is highly unlikely that Franz Ferdinand have ever encountered the Doors-on-andro rock of the Tea Party. But it's there. And removed from the clutches of Jeff Martin, it actually sounds all right. That, kids, takes genius. (A thought: Perhaps Franz Ferdinand are essentially the best of the Scissor Sisters without all the distracting costumes.)

But anyway. The Beatles. In addition to the seriousness vs. fun thing, think about all the ways Franz Ferdinand are like the Beatles. First, they, like the vast majority of great bands, hail from the United Kingdom. There are four of them. Three of them play guitar. Most of them are rather cute. Their songs are generally shorter than four minutes. And their lead singer is dating a sometimes impenetrable artiste. What more proof do you need? It's sitting there staring you in the face, folks.

All the lads need now is a singular period or passage of time that they can clearly dominate. They need their moment. They need what Coldplay haven't so far found with X&Y. And what U2 got after Sept. 11. Political upheaval in Britain would probably do the trick. So would some sort of New Scottish awakening. At the very least, Mike Myers could maybe guest host Saturday Night Live and revisit that "If It's No Scottish..." skit.

Now, we know what you're thinking: Didn't we just proclaim the Arcade Fire the Best Band In The World mere weeks ago?

Perhaps. Well, all right, yes, we did do that.

But rock n' roll moves fast. Or so we like to think. The Arcade Fire are yesterday's band. In fact, Franz Ferdinand are probably yesterday's band (making the Arcade Fire, er, Sunday's band), we just don't move that fast these days (arthritic knees). The best band in the world probably hasn't even recorded a song yet. In fact, the lead singer is probably still in diapers. Not unlike Mick Jagger (Ba-da-bing).

Anyway. Until one of our cooler friends tips us off to something better, we're going to go with this. And (and!) to keep up with our every whim and easily influenced opinions, we're going to start running a Best Band In The World ranking. Like College Football, only with slightly less payola. We'll attempt to do this weekly. But as interest fades and our attention wanes, it will probably become bi-weekly. Then tri-weekly. And then just irregular. At least this once though, we'll mean it.

Here goes.

1. Franz Ferdinand. (Available for all your sexy parties.)
2. Arcade Fire. (Still have a lot to prove.)
3. U2. (Sane people will still pay a day's wages to see them live.)
4. Coldplay. (Sincerity rules.)
5. Green Day. (Though we're kind of souring on them.)
6. Rolling Stones. (Sane people will still pay a week's wages to see them live.)
7. Death Cab For Cutie. (Not really sure why.)
8. The White Stripes. (Only because of the drummer.)
9. Foo Fighters. (No really.) Sleater-Kinney
10. Pearl Jam (Because at least two people have come back from recent concerts to tell us they have become one of the more enjoyable experiences in rock.)

Also receiving votes: Wilco, Limp Bizkit and 311.

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