Tuesday, January 04, 2005
PWI Record of the Year 2004
Number 1 Franz Ferdinand Franz Ferdinand Listen to Take Me Out (Go! Buy the Rekkid! . . . I mean, everyone else has.) A question I get asked a lot, well enough that I'd remark on it. People come up to me and they say: Hey, FC! How, in a year where the defining global events were a war, a mind-numbing re-election and the biggest natural disaster since Pompeii (and the fact that some people think the second and third thing are the same thing); how - in the middle of all this - can you justify a new-wavy pop album as record of the year? Cummon! How? My answer is pretty simple. Franz Ferdinand is my record of the year, not only because it's a collection of this year's best pop tunes, but because it's also a pretty catchy funeral march. Yeah, you heard me right. Y'see, friends, the whole concept of the album is gonna die. The fact that you're here, and on iTunes and Get Your Bootleg On is just part of the proof. You're not just reading about music, or listening to music, you're helping me plan a wake. "Albums" don’t exist for musical reasons. There is no limit to human creativity or imagination that forces us to pack 12 songs together with art and liner notes. The limitation has always been the size of the grooves on a slab of vinyl. I'm not claiming to know anything anyone else doesn't; in fact, when I asked some of my blogland neighbours for input on this year's uber-ten list (it's coming, today or tomorrow, I promise) I received more than one response along the line of "Geez, I don't listen to albums anymore. I'm kinda more into SONGS." More. Into. Songs. Unfortunately, the first 30 years of Rock-n-Roll history were marked (some might say marred) by albums that included one or two or three good or great tunes, and a bunch of filler. Things didn't get better, obviously, when the CD was introduced. Sure, listeners had a format with room for way MORE music, but the record industry kept the whole "album" concept in play because it made them money (why force an artist to record 20 tracks when you can ask full price for 11? When an artist has more to say, spread the music across two discs and charge nearly twice as much for a double cd, even if you could fit all the songs on one disc.) File sharing has permanently changed the connection between the song and the listener. We've jumped right back to the golden age of the single without the scratches, lack of portability or $2.49 price tag. Shuffle play on my iPod has completely changed the way I listen to music. It's rare when I listen to a record beginning to end. The concepts of "distribution" and "promotion" and "the record label" are bound to change as well (just check out these guys). I don't know exactly what the new world is going to look like, but anyone with an ear can tell it's going to be different. You can already hear the dinosaurs entering their death throws. So what does all of that rot have to do with four flouncy lads from Scotland? Nothing more than this: Franz Ferdinand is a record where every track is a keeper. Each one isn't AS good as the next (for me, Take Me Out stands head and shoulders above the rest) but there isn't one that's a let down. Not one that makes you think "Geez, now THAT didn't need to be here." In short, it's a perfect record for the age of the iPod. A record that deserves to be packaged as a record and listened to track-by-track, beginning to end. A record where each and every song is a fun havin', foot tappin', head bobbin', influence checkin' three-and-a-half minutes of rock. We, you and me, are planning a wake for business as usual in the record industry. In 2004, Alex Kapranos and the boys were thoughtful enough to bring the tunes. Buy a copy of Franz Ferdinand Interested in the way technology is going to change the world of music. Check out Downhill Battle or, for a different take, the work of Dr. Robert Zatorre?