FRANZ FERDINAND with TV ON THE RADIO and CUT COPY at Ricoh Coliseum (100 Princes' Blvd), Tuesday (October 18), 6 pm, $32.50-$42. 416-870-8000, www.rootmeansquare.ca.
Some might argue Franz Ferdinand single-handedly triggered the nu-wave trend that brought the Kaiser Chiefs, Bloc Party and (ugh) the Bravery to international stages.
And after their self-titled LP dropped at the beginning of 2004, buoyed by a tide of buzz from the BBC and beyond, the four nattily-dressed Scotsmen found girls dancing to their angular anthems in supermarkets and North American college pubs far removed from the Glasgow art scene where the Franz fellas got their start.
But frontman Alex Kapranos has a very different gauge for how he knows his band has arrived. He got trashed by Liam Gallagher.
"It's a bit of a perverse compliment, a sign that we must be doing something right," he says, trying to keep the smile out of his voice. He's referring to the notorious NME sound bite in which the brawling Oasis bro compared the Franz dandy to 90s casualty Right Said Fred.
"Because if you're not being slagged off by Liam Gallagher, then people aren't really paying attention to you." He pauses to muffle a laugh. "I think we must threaten his own sense of masculinity."
Well played, sir.
He sounds remarkably laid back as the band prepares for a show in St. Louis. Actually, it's striking how flippin' nice and unpretentious Kapranos and his bandmates are in the face of Beatles-calibre fame. In a couple of hours they'll be unveiling brand-new material on their hugely anticipated sophomore disc, You Could Have It So Much Better (Domino/Sony BMG), and it could resonate with a massive, disappointing thud.
Meanwhile, they've been killing time by filling out online quizzes to find out what breed of dog corresponds to their respective personalities.
Drummer Paul Thomson (a small white fluffy dog) tells me Kapranos was a Great Dane and bassist Bob Hardy was some sort of German hunting dog. He can't remember how guitarist Nick McCarthy measured up.
There may be a basic explanation for the chilled-out demeanour of the FF squad: their new album is much better than their first. Where Franz Ferdinand (the disc) was a deliriously hooky single surrounded by a handful of catchy, stylistically cohesive tunes that were good but not great and took few risks, YCHISMB features a grab-bag of standout tracks with reference points throughout the last half-century of British rock.
There's pulsating mid-90s Britrock in the Blur/Pulp mode, Kinks-styled jangly psych-pop freakouts, a couple of gentle ballads and enough of the prickly dance rock the lads patented on their last record to please old fans.
If Franz Ferdinand's debut was, as they claimed, "music that girls could dance to," this one is ?
"Music that can't be summed up with a glib remark," offers Thomson, after hasty consultation with his mates. Gotcha.
The band worked in a low-key recording environment (they camped out at Kapranos's home to make the album) and ditched producer Tore Johansson in favour of L.A.'s Rich Costey, best known for his work with the Mars Volta and Brit darlings Muse, who also helped FF re-record their track This Fire.
"We feel as though there are no boundaries between producer and band," Kapranos slowly begins, "and we wanted to be able to sit in a room together and have a two-way exchange of ideas. Tore is a really great producer, but he's used to working in a pop environment where people come in, he does his thing and . " He pauses. "He's not used to a band having ideas. When we did our first album, you could see him visibly bristling when we had suggestions. It was a bit of a teacher-student dynamic. But comparing him with Rich is like comparing your ex-girlfriends - they're both special in their own ways."
I ask drummer Thomson (who used to be in a band called Yummy Fur, in honour of the Chester Brown comic) whether it's hard going back to Glasgow now that he and his pals are international rock stars. He brushes off my question with a sheepish, "You wear a red jacket and everyone stares at you in Glasgow," but brightens when he hears I'm calling from Toronto.
"That's such a cool town. There's a bunch of cool bands coming out of Toronto - like, d'you know this band Barcelona Pavilion? A friend of mine who has a radio show on WFMU tipped me off to them. There's this one single or a 7-inch or something, and it's got a sample of Rowche Rumble by the Fall, and it opens with this great drum bit. When I'm DJing I always play it," he continues. "It's quite barmy."
He offers to put all the members of Barcelona Pavilion on the guest list.
Hey, guys, it could be the next best thing to having Liam Gallagher slag you in print.