Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Franz is making a new statement
It was around 3 in the afternoon when Alex Kapranos’s hangover began to wear off. Mr. Kapranos, the lead singer of the Scottish rock band Franz Ferdinand, and his bandmate Nick McCarthy, who plays guitar and keyboards, had spent the previous evening in a refined version of debauchery. They went to a concert — by the British group the Last Shadow Puppets — followed by a late-night feast at the Spotted Pig, the West Village gastropub. Mr. McCarthy capped it off with some dancing at a downtown club, staying out until 5 a.m.
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Now both were sitting at Momofuku Noodle Bar in the East Village, recovering.
“I’m feeling very, very tender,” Mr. Kapranos, 36, said.
“Do you have any tea?” Mr. McCarthy, 34, asked the waitress.
“No hot beverages,” she replied. They ordered water.
The odyssey of a night out, from drug-fueled anticipation to dance-floor frenzy to post-hook-up comedown, is also the subject of the band’s third album, “Tonight: Franz Ferdinand,” released on Tuesday on Domino/Epic Records. On it, the group — which includes Bob Hardy on bass and Paul Thomson on drums — aimed away from the wry, propulsive post-punk that defined its first two records and made its global 2004 hit, “Take Me Out,” an unlikely stadium anthem; even the Yankees used it.
Since then the members have found that their aesthetic — from their high-hat beat to their mod wardrobe — has gone mainstream, especially in Britain, Mr. Kapranos said. “You feel like, right, that’s become so much a part of musical vocabulary of the contemporary band, it’s now a cliché, and you have to leave it,” he said.
So no more “angular guitars,” Mr. McCarthy said, a description that has stuck to the band as surely as their slim-cut suits. (Or their angular haircuts.)
But though the band added more keyboards, bass (“It’s nice to be the lead onstage occasionally, so that I can show off a bit,” Mr. Hardy wrote in an e-mail message), unusual instrumentation, echoes of dub and even an acousticy ballad, “Tonight” will sound familiar to Franz fans, with Mr. Kapranos again singing disco songs about girls and hedonistic behavior.
He has a reputation as a foodie: he met Mr. Hardy when they worked at a Glasgow restaurant, and eventually wrote a food column for The Guardian in Britain. (A collection was released in the United States as a well-received book, “Sound Bites: Eating on Tour With Franz Ferdinand,” in 2006.)
Over an elaborate lunch — kimchi and other pickled vegetables, East and West Coast oysters, pork and shitake mushroom buns, noodle soups and hamachi with beet purée — he and Mr. McCarthy discussed their attempts to sidestep the clichés of postpunk stardom while still making a record people could dance, and debauch themselves, to.
“It’s a mixed blessing when a band gets that much attention early on,” said Jason Bentley, the music director of KCRW, the influential radio station in Santa Monica, Calif., and the host of “Morning Becomes Eclectic.” In 2004 that program, with Nic Harcourt as the host, first featured Franz Ferdinand in the United States. Less than a year later the band was opening the Grammys with “Take Me Out.”
“For a while there, you thought, ‘Are these guys going to go down as a one-hit wonder?’ ” Mr. Bentley said.
Not that they mind having their music back arena-size sporting events. “I always thought it was funny,” Mr. Kapranos said, “because we are the least sporty people in the world.”
Still, “Tonight” is an attempt to regroup as the small Glasgow band the members started, rather than the stylish name brand one they seemed poised to become after their self-titled debut, which had a narrowly defined look and a taut signature sound and sold more than a million copies in the United States.