All the Young Dance Whores

Franz Ferdinand's big queer hit takes straight guys where even Bowie feared to tread


"Michael" cuts to the heart of new wave, which has always had a lot to do with straight kids trying to act as cool as queer kids. In the immortal words of Imperial Teen, "the prince wants to be a queen." The world is crawling with nouveau new wave bands now—indeed, the first thing everybody noticed about Franz Ferdinand was that they were a Brit new wave band imitating the New York new wave bands who are currently imitating old Brit new wave bands. There are all sorts of theories about why '80s-inspired new wave-ness and modness have come back with such a vengeance, but it's the first guitar-rock trend in years that has had anything to do with sex. New wave's eternal appeal has to do with its playful, humane pansexuality. It's a safe space for kids to act out, to try on gay or straight or bi poses at will, without brutalizing each other. People who condemned Bowie as a sexual tourist were missing the point—he was a sexual explorer (or "lodger," as he put it in the title of one of his best albums) because he was a sexual exile, like most of us, stuck in orbit like Major Tom and determined to make a home out of it. He built the floor that new wavers have been dancing on ever since, from Roxy Music to Culture Club to Pulp to the new waver indie kids currently shaking their hair at a club near you.

Franz Ferdinand's beat has been compared to Talking Heads a few times, but that seems totally off—the obvious template is Blondie, whose rhythm section circa "Atomic" and "Rapture" the Franz lads have obviously studied in Talmudic detail, and their point of reference is disco, not funk. Their DOR frivolity is an explicit rejection of the clamped-down gender roles of guitar rock in the late '90s. You can hear it in the discodelic stagger of "Take Me Out," a song where Alex parades his body in front of a new crush, begging to be picked off the way an assassin takes out a target. And you can hear it in "Michael," a song so giddy with lust that it takes you out as well. The real-life Michael seems to be keeping a low profile these days. Franz Ferdinand have 492 friends in their Friendster loop, but none of them are named Michael. (There's a "Jacqueline," though.) But he's reportedly making an appearance in the new video the band is doing for "Michael" in Berlin. It's about time. The rock audience needs him even more than he needs us. Come on, Michael—take us out.

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