Franz Ferdinand at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), Monday (February 23). $10. 416-598-4753. Rating: NNNNN
Even by British pop music standards of eye-blink-quick, nobody-to-celebrity transformations, Franz Ferdinand's rise to popular acclaim has happened shockingly fast. At least that's the way it appears observing the Scots dance-rock delinquents' progress from this side of the Atlantic, where their striking debut single, Darts Of Pleasure, appeared here on import just two weeks before they appeared on the cover of the NME with the headline hype boldly declaring, "This band will change your life!"
Well, no more or less than last issue's next-big-thing, but when you've been trying to sell no-talent fuds like Kings of Leon, it's entirely understandable that a mag would go overboard when a band with genuine songwriting chops and a dash of charisma comes along - and Franz Ferdinand have it in spades.
The group, that is, not the ill-fated Austrian archduke whose 1914 assassination touched off the first world war. Evidently, there's been some confusion surrounding the origins of the name, which actually came from a horse.
"We were watching a horse race and one of the horses was called Franz Ferdinand," explains bassist Bob Hardy from a London phone booth. "We'd been trying to come up with the right group name for months, so we had a brief discussion about the archduke, and the name seemed to fit our criteria."
That was almost two years ago, and ever since, club bookers and bar owners have been mistaking the Glaswegian groove squad for unusually snappy-dressing German hooligans. But that could have as much to do with the tendency of their Munich-raised keyboardist/guitarist Nick McCarthy to spew off Deutsche disses as their unusual handle.
"A lot of people still think we're German," chuckles Hardy. "And there's always someone asking to speak to Franz. They usually think it's Alex (singer Alex Kapranos) because he's the vocalist. You'd imagine that most people would know about the archduke, but occasionally an odd situation arises.
"We did this television show in France where they had two dressing rooms ready for us - one for Franz Ferdinand and another for his backing musicians. That took some explaining to sort out."
Ah, the French. Franz Ferdinand's recognition factor has changed dramatically since the NME cover story hit the streets in January, followed by the release of their swaggeringly self-assured self-titled debut disc for Domino. While the album's Canadian release through Outside is set for March 3, it's already at number three with a bullet on the UK charts thanks in part to the exquisite live-in-the-studio production job of the Cardigans' Swedish sound sculptor, Tor Johannson.
Judging by the recent standing-room-only tour of England that Franz Ferdinand just completed with the Rapture, Von Bondies and Funeral for a Friend, they seem well on their way to fulfilling their ultimate goal of "making music for girls to dance to." So far, Hardy and Kapranos have no regrets about giving up their potentially lucrative cake decorating careers as Glasgow pastry chefs.
"The tour we just did was brilliant," shouts Hardy. "The kids in the audience were going crazy as soon as we went on. They were dancing to every song, and there was even a mosh pit every night, which we've never had happen at our shows before. It was bizarre but very exhilarating."