Sunday, February 23, 2014

DB's Song of the Day (day 54):"THE DARK OF THE MATINEE" (2004), Franz Ferdinand

Today’s song is a perfect example of why it’s important to have young people in your life. As I’ve said, I’m not a debut album kind of guy, so why do I know Franz Ferdinand’s first album?  Because my daughter Kajsa passed it along to me when, in 2004, she was hanging about the art scene in Baltimore, trying to get a gallery going and doing prints for band posters, and that sort of thing. In that world, FF’s first was one of the albums to make a splash. Indeed it did get "album of the year" attention from critics and the industry. It was hot.

And that’s important, with rock or post-punk pop, or whatever they want to call this thing. Fact of the matter is, it sounds to me like my own youth, which is to say the early 80s when the New Wave of hairbands assaulted MTV with catchy beats and hard-edged hooks. It was not so far a cry from power-pop, which is more or less what The Kinks invented, along with The Who, somewhere around 1964 or so. Which is a way of saying, I suppose, that looking back 10 years (already!) to this album is not so different from looking back 30 to the pinnacle of New Wave, nor so different from looking back 50 years to the British Invasion.  All well and good, but . . . what’s happening right now?  No clue, me. Mainly because any informants I might have are all over twenty-five. Tsk tsk. And I can still remember when the change happened, but that might be best pursued in another post.

For now, we’ve got this infectious little number up and running. “The Dark of the Matinee,” a single that you imagine would just take over the radio. And why not, it’s all about those kind of hook-ups that happen in your teen, maybe even pre-teen, years, when you’re first trying out “style” as a concept, as an identity, and, like as not, are still wearing a school uniform (the “blazer” and the “ties”). The girls I went to school with were in uniform up through 8th grade, y’know. Leaves an impression that this song sustains.

But it’s not just that. When I heard this song I was almost 45 fucking years old. And I still got it, or, more to the point, it still got me. It cranks with that chorus: “Find me and follow me / Through corridors, refectories / And files you must follow, leave / This academic factory / You will find me / In the matinee / The dark of the matinee / It’s better in the matinee / The dark of the matinee / Is mine, yes it’s mine.”  Coming after The Smiths’ post that could seem a little creepy too—which is why it’s good this is about a teen guy in a blazer inviting some girl he likes to sample the dark of the matinee, otherwise we might wonder who’s hanging ’round the theaters.

The song, besides featuring a nice, upbeat pop explosion for tired old gaffers like me, also gives expression to the eternal search for the simpatico that we might encounter at any age (well, one can hope) with the litany of “the boys I hate and the girls I hate” (change it to singers, filmmakers, actors, and, yeah), and clothes and even words, as our young would-be lover approaches the world with his shield up and dagger drawn, only to be unmanned, or rather man-handled when his girl smiles, “mention[s] something that [she] like[s].” Oh if she likes me she’ll tell me what she likes! And then the kicker, “and how you’d have a happy life if you did the things you like.” Wouldn’t we all?  But that line lets me know these guys know the wherewithal of the folks who don’t get to choose what to be and rarely, if ever, get to do the things they like. Sleeping with common people and that.

And one thing we can all agree we dislike is “this academic factory.” Ditch it for the dark of the matinee, any day. I’m doing so today, in fact, as Kajsa and I are off to see a matinee of Sophie Treadwell’s Machinal on stage in NYC featuring the rather intriguing Rebecca Hall. I hope it will be something that we like. And, sure, the song is really about the dark of movie matinees but I’m almost beginning to forget their allure.

The song also has a funny little snippet of that sort of Walter Middy daydreaming teens (and only teens, of course) are so prone to, as the singer imagines himself on the Terry Wogan show on BBC 2, being interviewed with deference. “Oh it’s easy now” and the way he draws out that “now” while the song surges back into its hook behind him is just so bloody good.
But, to follow up that debut LP bit. I know FF's first album and like the second too. Still have yet to hear FF’s third and fourth. See how it is? If you get in too early, you get out sooner. 

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