Franz Ferdinand – You Could Have it So Much Better (2005)
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Here are some descriptions I’ve read recently of Franz Ferdinand’s music: “Art-damaged rock.” “Churned-up art punk.” “Garage rock/post-punk.”

Sure, whatever. I liked them better when they were called The Knack. “Do You Want To” (download), “You’re the Reason I’m Leaving” (download), blah blah blah, next.


OK Go – Oh No (2005)
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You know how you think the picture on your driver’s license makes you look like a total dork? And yet, when someone photocopies it, the copy looks so bad that the original seems somewhat attractive by comparison?

Enter OK Go. They can write decent songs if they try hard enough — as shown by the nifty burst of buzzsaws-‘n’-handclaps stadium rock that was “Get Over It” — but they’ve got nothing that resembles an identity. They hired Franz Ferdinand’s producer to pilot the ship for Oh No, and the results are pretty much what you’d expect. This is the audio equivalent of a photocopy of your driver’s license. It’s the textbook definition of derivative, and what it’s imitating is itself a facsimile — making songs like “A Million Ways” (download) and “Television, Television” (download) watered down, fourth-generation replicas.

There’s nothing new under the sun, sure, and sometimes nothing hits the spot like a well-intentioned pastiche, especially in rock & roll. I believe intent is usually fairly transparent in music, though, and intent is what makes all the difference. In Franz Ferdinand’s case, it would be difficult to argue that their sound isn’t calculated, but they channel their influences so cleanly that their best music comes across as a studied tip of the hat (one without much value, but que sera, sera). Oh No soars beyond calculated and on into cynical. For me, what it boils down to is this: Hearing You Could Have It So Much Better makes me want to listen to Talking Heads. Hearing Oh No just makes me mad.