Monday, December 1, 2008

This Post Is Not Stalinist!

Franz Ferdinand's next album, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, will be coming out in the US on January 27, 2009. At their Myspace page linked above, you can hear the two songs that have thus far been released from the album, "Lucid Dreams" (on the record player) and "Ulysses" (although apparently "Lucid Dreams" will be quite different on the album).

Lyrically, there are some interesting connections between these two songs. "Ulysses" makes reference, surprisingly enough, to Ulysses, but "Lucid Dreams" makes reference to Ithaca. This is enough to make a naturally synthetic mind such as mine see a vivid connection.

"Lucid Dreams" seems to be a song about a world traveler; the song name-checks not only Ithaca but also Istanbul, Alexandria, and Germany, as the narrator explains that he "skate[s] on the world tonight." But the excitement of world travel doesn't hide the anomie underneath, as the singer complains about his "aimless love" and feels "hollow" because he "may never know if there is some great truth or not." The excitement of being able to go all over the world, of being rootless and untethered, is intimately tied to the sorrow of having no specific aim (how can one have a landing place if one doesn't have a starting place?) and not having any one grand truth to tie oneself. The answer to the traveler's issue seems to be to invite a loved one to travel along with him; after asserting that "there is no nation of you, there is no nation of me," the singer claims that, "in lucid dreams," the two of them can find "our nation."

"Ulysses" has to be a song about a world traveler, simply by virtue of being called "Ulysses" ;-). Although the song's lyrics aren't quite as evocative as those of "Lucid Dreams," they do seem to focus on somewhat similar themes - once again, we have a traveling narrator ("walk twenty-five miles") undergoing a variety of experiences ("I've found a new way"). Although the references to travel are less blatant than in "Lucid Dreams," that title does make it hard to avoid noticing them. There also seem to be various references to jaded anomie - the singer wonders "what you gotta disdain," complains, "I'm bored, I'm bored, c'mon, let's get high," and discusses "that heart that grew cold." And then the second section of the song kicks in, and the ultimate message is not only that "you're not Ulysses" but also that "you're never going home." And so, once again, we have an untethered traveler who can't ever return home and is thus doomed to suffer boredom and purposelessness.

I don't know, of course, whether any of the other songs on the upcoming album will pick up these themes. But, since I think they're kind of cool themes, I definitely hope that this turns out to be an album based on a modernized version of The Odyssey, focusing on the twin pulls of the excitement of being a citizen of the world versus the importance of roots and a sense of home. These are, after all, themes that Franz Ferdinand might be particularly well-suited to explore. I mean, yes, any popular band is going to be able to explore these themes, because world traveling and the inability to really put down roots in a community kind of go with the job description. But look at Alex Kapranos's biography - here's a guy born in England to his English mother and Greek father (who changed his surname - why? To sound more English?), spending most of his childhood summers in Greece, and then moving to Scotland as a kid. He describes himself as possessing "English looks, but Greek temperment." And he's written a song, which, as far as I can tell, is about the the anglicization of successful Scottish people. So. . . he certainly seems to be just the right person to create songs, based on a classic work of Greek literature, focusing on the tension between cosmopolitanism and a strong sense of nation. Furthermore, it's not just Alex - guitarist Nick McCarthy, though born in England, grew up in Germany. So the band as a whole probably has a good understanding of this tension.

Anyway, I'm all set to be disappointed. But if it does end up happening the way I've laid it out, you read it first here!

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