Meggie Brown is a singer/songwriter/guitarist from London playing a mystical punk rock, showcased perfectly in her debut single ‘Coming Back Again’, (produced by FF’s Alex Kapranos). Tonight she was playing with her sharply dressed and tightly drilled band, who although as support they were all confined to one side of the cluttered stage, impressed and engrossed the steadily growing sold-out crowd. It was an enjoyable set, I particularly liked the sudden instrumental twists in amongst the spiky lyrics, and I am still pondering the meaning of ‘crying for 14 years’ appearing on Meggie and her companion guitarist’s frock coats..
Albert Hammond Jr has a reputation founded on his guitar playing in cult legends The Strokes, and he has continued to push boundaries with his solo work, soon to release his fourth album, ‘Francis Trouble’. Fronting a five-piece band he is a likeable and lively performer, able to share his affability with ease as he leaps around the stage, climbs onto speakers, plays guitar or serenades his stripy jacket. The band are reassuringly adept too, able to switch smoothly between wall of sound and sparser tracks based around single line figures.
Since Franz Ferdinand released their debut album in 2004 they have built a strong reputation based on live performance and a succession of contrasting albums, with constant experimentation weaving through their own distinctive sound. Now expanded to a five-piece, new disc ‘Always Ascending’ featured heavily tonight, with ‘Lazy Boy’ and ‘Paper Cages’ particular highpoints. In an artfully crafted set, old favourites also appeared at key moments, with ‘Do You Want To’ and favourite of mine ‘Michael’ (in the absence of ‘Jacqueline’!) which really kicked the crowd off. Some moody moog synth textures featured more in mid-set but of course the wall of guitars for ‘Take Me Out’ was stunning.
During the encore the back-projections of the band members and other effects went into overdrive and then the double header of new (‘Huck and Jim’) and vintage (‘This Fire’) brought the show to an explosive finale.
Franz Ferdinand recording with Sparks?! A dream collaboration, resulting in this new album. Along with early Roxy Music, Sparks’ TV performances still stand out when shown on the many music compilations shows from the 70s (thanks BBC4!) and their ‘The Number One Song In Heaven’ is prime-cut electronica from 1979. Franz Ferdinand continue to be a formidable live attraction (see my review on this site) and last album ‘Right Words…’ kept up their high standard.
The sixteen tracks kick off with ‘Johnny Delusional’, a keyboard-led stomper and from the start it is clear that this offspring has shared the traits from the two parents equally. ‘Call Girl’ keeps the energy up, then listening onwards you get the feeling that they are recording all sorts of styles and ideas, then without thinking too much sticking it on the album anyway. A commendable attitude indeed, this experimentation yields many delights – the most spectacular being the many sections of mini-operetta ‘Collaborations Don’t Work’, probably unlike anything else released this year?
Across the songs the lyrical subject matter covers modern obsessions, cultural touchstones, semi-obscure icons, death references (‘so many bridges in the world to jump off of….’) and the music jumps around unpredictably. ‘Save Me From Myself’ could be an Abba greatest hit and ‘The Power Couple’ an excerpt from an updated Brecht/Weill songbook.
It is all a bit much in one listen, but give the album time, you will be occasionally disappointed but in the end richly rewarded…
From walking on to the stage while playing ‘Bullet’, Franz Ferdinand dominated the high, wide and handsome space of the Roundhouse.
Tight sound, variety, peaks, ‘Fresh Strawberries’ and other thoughtful moments leading to ‘Take Me Out’ and ‘This Fire’ in particular setting the audience alight. The projected backdrop of angular buildings, the patchwork?! suits and the edgy movements of Alex Kapranos complement the music, a brilliant hybrid of early Talking Heads and Orange Juice with an added edge of bitterness for the 21st century. A generous encore rounded off the night, unfortunately not playing my favourite FF song ‘Jacqueline’, but that is a minor criticism….
(Must not forget the short and engaging set from support band The Bohicas, indie power pop with a heavy undercurrent, check out the song ‘XXX’…..)