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MUSIC:          BANDS          REVIEWS

One of those rare bands whose every new release marks a significant step forward, Franz Ferdinand's self-titled debut album offers the most expansive version of their music yet. Darts of Pleasure proved that the band was equally adept with sharp lyrics and hooks, and the "Take Me Out" single took their sound to dramatic new heights, but, starting with the opening track, "Jacqueline," Franz Ferdinand reveals more depth and more new directions than their previous work suggested. More complex than anything on their EPs, the song begins with a brooding acoustic prelude before jumping into a violently vibrant celebration of hedonism. This dark, decadent turn winds its way through the album, popping up on "Auf Ausche," a somewhat scary mix of romantic yearning and aggression that finds singer Alex Kapranos intoning "She's not so special / So look what you've done, boy" over cheap synth-strings and pianos that convey low-rent moodiness and ruined glamour far more effectively than a real string section would. And even in the context of the album, "Take Me Out" remains unmatched for sheer drama; with its relentless stomp and lyrics like "I'm just a cross hair / I'm just a shot away from you," it's deliciously unclear whether it's about meeting a date or a firing squad. Still, the wonderfully dry wit that the band displayed on songs like Dart of Pleasure's "Shopping for Blood" and "Van Tango" is still in full effect on Franz Ferdinand, albeit in more subtle ways: the strangely radiant "Matinee" uses dizzying wordplay to express the thrill of romantic escapism, while "Michael" is a post-post-punk "John, I'm Only Dancing," by equal turns macho and fey; when Kapranos proclaims "This is what I am / I am a man / So come and dance with me Michael," it's not just homoerotic, but sexy in general. Love and lust make up a far greater portion of Franz Ferdinand than any of the band's other work; previously, Franz Ferdinand's strong suit was witty aggressiveness, and the shift in focus has mixed results. For every "Come on Home," which has swooning, anthemic choruses guaranteed to melt even those that hate swooning, anthemic choruses, there's a "This Fire." It's by no means a bad song, but at this point the band sounds more forced singing about how they burn with desire than they do singing about the King of the Night, or the new Scottish gentry. There's something a little too manic and unsettled about Franz Ferdinand to make them completely convincing romantics, but fortunately, the album includes enough of their louder, crazier songs to please fans of their EPs. "Darts of Pleasure" remains one of the best expressions of Franz Ferdinand's shabby glamour, campy humor, and sugar-buzz energy, and "Tell Her Tonight," which debuted on the Darts of Pleasure EP, returns in a full-fledged version that's even more slinky, menacing, and danceable than the demo hinted it might be. And if Franz Ferdinand's aim has always been about getting people to dance, then "Cheating on You," with its mix of churned-up art-punk, and close, Merseybeat-like harmonies, suggests some combination of pogoing and twisting could become a new dance craze. While the album may not be as flawless or as fully realized a debut as a Turn on the Bright Lights or Make up the Breakdown, its occasional awkward moments and its fluidity make it more interesting in its own way. Franz Ferdinand ends up being rewarding in different ways than the band's previous work was, but it's apparent that they're still one of the more exciting groups to come out of the garage-rock / post-punk revival