The only way Franz Ferdinand, the latest in a long line of overhyped British imports, could justify the celebratory verbiage penned about the group by U.K. journalists would be if its members brought peace to the Middle East, eliminated global poverty and transplanted a fully functioning brain into Jessica Simpson. Yet while these four Scotsmen are unlikely to change the world as we know it, at least the group serves up its sound with a minimum of pretentiousness and includes some old-fashioned entertainment value in the mix.
Granted, a person's enjoyment level will be directly proportional to his feelings about the retro cast of the disc, and of the Return to Rock movement in general. Rather than developing a fresh style, guitarist/vocalist Alex Kapranos, guitarist Nick McCarthy, bassist Bob Hardy and drummer Paul Thompson toss musical trends learned during their recent boyhood into a sonic salad spinner and hope the results are edible. Their tastiest offerings are the lightest. "Jacqueline," the opening track, is bouncy, angular and lyrically goofy; "Take Me Out" overcomes its Strokes-like tendencies via sheer enthusiasm; and "Darts of Pleasure" smacks the target, thanks to an exuberant melody and words that mean as little in English ("You can feel my lips undress your eyes") as they do in German ("Ich heisse super fantastiche!").
Borrowing from the past isn't a guarantor of quality, as is demonstrated by "Tell Her Tonight," which gives off an undeniable whiff of (shudder) Dexy's Midnight Runners. Nonetheless, Franz Ferdinand should keep most folks reasonably entertained until the next British buzz band comes along. You should hear about it around four o'clock tomorrow afternoon.