Franz Ferdinand, Alexandra Palace, 30 November
I know you'll say I'm being negative, but I was really trying to be positive.
I don't know that much Franz Ferdinand. Obviously I know, like, the singles, and the image, and the Yummy Fur connection (which is presumably why "British Sounds" spent much of last night ricocheting round my cranium). But I think in that soft head of mine I've always kind of preferred them to many of the other Mercury Music Prize / otherwise feted "alternative" bands, because they've er, paid their dues, seem to have a fair bit of intelligence, have fine influences which they're not afraid to wear on their musical sleeve, and because what I've heard I've rather liked, to a degree - I mean I wouldn't spend money on their records, but there ain't too much wrong with angular vaguely-funky art-rock when the moment's right. And not all bands can be Sportique, or, skipping back a generation, ATV.
So I did honestly go to the Ally Pally expecting that things wouldn't be too bad - and I guess they weren't, really, in that I certainly didn't leave (as I have in the past after seeing, ooh, Eminem, or the White Stripes) just shaking my head in hollow disbelief. Really, it was more a kind of mild, if tangible disappointment - I'd sort of expected to be pleasantly surprised, so walking back out into the north London cold liking them marginally less than I had before I went in seemed a little like a personal defeat.
What was wrong with them ? Nothing really. It's not their fault they're on the same label as Hood, on whose behalf I always get pathetically bitter when discussing their chartbound labelmates. And I thought the drummer was great, too. But the posturing and the strutting and the windmill power chords and the slick video screens and the huge rotating drapes and the Tap-esque introducing of the band and the lightshow and the ooh, slightly acoustic segment all struck me as things that better suit worse bands than FF - and I couldn't convince myself that it was merely a cleverly ironic kind of overblown. Yes, I thought it was great when they did "Take Me Out" and visibly made thousands of people happy - it was that which finally displaced "I'm not American / don't call me Thurston" from my head, and the mix of punters was about as wide as I've seen outside the Fall. But the mass frenzy that accompanied "TMO" was one of the few times that their post-Gang of F. sensibilities really came to the fore - danceable, almost chic guitar music, the bass guitar actually doing some damage. For much of the set it was, I don't know, more testosterone than I was banking on. And again, I know you can fairly say, well what's wrong with that...
This blog still has a kind of respect for FF (which I'm sure they'd be delighted to hear!) because they've reached I think quite an enviable level (four consecutive dates at the stunning Palace) and still without ever having gone near the shocking lows accomplished by 2005 singles from Oasis, Embrace, Babyshambles, Coldplay, Athlete and any number of transient NME no-names. And I kind of feel a bit sad, in that context, that I'm knocking them now. But other things, that used to upset me, barely register sometimes: Rovers lose again, clients are really annoying, they've closed down another pub and turned into a rubbish bar - all water off a duck's back. So it's good that music can still make me feel betrayed, disappointed, whatever - however immature that may be. That's when music isn't making me feel insanely smiley instead of course, which it very often is.
Oh, and it was a beautiful, fresh, cold evening, with stunning views from the hillside over the lights of the City, Canary Wharf and far beyond. That made me smile, too.
Martyn Hare "Emetic X" and "Emetic XI" (Emetic, 12"s). Peel favourites never let you down...