This Franz Ferdinand article was written by Lawottim Anywar, a GIGsoup contributor
2004 was a year wherein guitar music dominated the British mainstream airwaves. Suddenly, amidst the battlefield of the flagging and uninspired EDM scene and the gone but not forgotten rave culture, it was cool once more to be bashing out angular, garage rock influenced hook laden art school funk. Through a mist of derivative copycats and desperate indie mountain climbers, it was Franz Ferdinand that began to legitimize this styling’s oncoming ubiquity and accessibility.
The album went on to win 2004’s Mercury Music Prize, at the time perhaps a just victory. However in retrospect, was Franz Ferdinand the most enduring effort on the list in 2004? Maybe the album defined a period for the next 3-5 years since its release, but it’s somewhat hard to say where it sits any further than that. In 2015, FF reflects a certain British-film-chase sequence vibe and echoes a backing track for a trailer for that new show on BBC three.
Alongside FF in 2004 were, most notably, Frank, Amy Winehouse’s debut, which left its mark on R&B and soul music for an entire decade, the iconic performer of which having defined a benchmark for every other soul artist emerging afterward. This didn’t bode well for Joss Stone’s The Soul Sessions, which tread too much familiar ground with shiny, polished covers, or underrated gem Thank You from Jamelia, whose silky vocals and sincere lyricism with sparse, 90’s R&B and garage production created a smooth blend of home grown soul.
Ty and Basement Jaxx showed up with Upwards and Kish Kash; the former did relatively little to prove the longevity of British hip hop against the fad-like nature of the indie whirlpool and the latter, despite its It Takes a Nation of Millions style mashed-up break beat attempt at accessible organised chaos could not prove itself coherent enough to take the lead. Robert Wyatt’s Cuckooland perhaps seemed to obscure, and The Street’s A Grand Don’t Come for Free, perhaps too novelty.
Given that Snow Patrol, Keane, Belle and Sebastian and the Zutons were seemingly leading the charge alongside Franz Ferdinand with their nominated efforts, it could be argued that it simply made sense for FF to win. The force was strong with the indie rock crew.
Then again, Take me Out is still a certified banger and The Dark of the Matinee still gets whacked on for laughs at stadiums during half time. Tell Her Tonight is still a strangely funky surprise after roaring opener-disguised-as-slow-burner Jacqueline. Even Auf Asche plays out like a sincere miniature disco lament on lost time. But in reality, Franz Ferdinand is just another album of its time. It was a perfect storm upon release, capturing a moment and a feeling with both rawness and grace and straight up pop sensibility. But the sad truth is that indie rock was the flame that burned twice as bright and for half as long. FF wouldn’t ascend to the same heights today, but everyone can admit that it was fun at the time, right?