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Sunday, Feb. 29, 2004



Franz Ferdinand: "Franz Ferdinand"

You know something is probably afoot when the second single of a quartet of Glaswegian art students enters the U.K. charts at No. 3. But when that single, "Take Me Out," has critics competing to sing its praises, you know that it's time to listen up.

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According to their already substantial mythology, Franz Ferdinand formed during an argument about the essence of art, and their first gigs were in art galleries. "Take Me Out," opens with the lines "So if you're lonely/You know I'm here/Waiting for you/I'm just a cross hair/I'm just a shot away from you," and initially sounds like something spawned by The Strokes. But as the song slows and a sly funk beat creeps in while the lyrics soak in, it soon becomes apparent that this is a very different sort of band, the offspring of Debbie Harry and Jarvis Cocker, perhaps. When, years ago, Morrissey sang "take me out," he wanted to be taken out on the town; when Franz Ferdinand's Alexander Kapranos sings the same words, he is exhorting a sniper/lover to kill him.

The spiritual link between The Smiths and Franz Ferdinand is also in evidence on the rest of their eponymous guitar/disco/funk/punk-influenced debut album -- from the slow-building opening track "Jacqueline," with its forlorn refrain "It's always better on holiday," to "Michael," a love song to a man at a disco (delivered by a man), and "Darts of Pleasure," with delicate vocals in English giving way to German military chanting. Not since The Smiths have lyrics been so, well, clever, or a British guitar band sounded so fresh, self-assured and unafraid to be different.

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