RIFF REWIND 2004: Franz Ferdinand, KT Tunstall and lots of complaints

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Franz Ferdinand, Alex Kapranos, Nick McCarthy, Bob Hardy, Paul Thomson

Franz Ferdinand took you out, and made breakfast in the morning.

It’s another edition of RIFF Rewind crowdsourced from the RIFF staff! Which means rock music was still overproduced and generic, and I couldn’t stand to slog through it.

Look, I realize this may cause a minor mutiny among the site staffers who were into this stuff back in the day, but I can’t stand early ’00s emo-tinged alt rock. It’s just so bland. The lyrical content could be good, but the music was just so flat and inoffensive. I mean, a shockingly high percentage of artists on this list came from Canada! That says it all.

So my solution, as is my way, was to poll my colleagues for their favorites and use that as the long list. That way I had to listen to a minimum number of identical-sounding supermarket-grade tracks.

(As an aside: I couldn’t include it because I used a Coulton song last week, but do yourself a favor and listen to “The Future Soon” You’re welcome.)

Franz Ferdinand — “Take Me Out”

First up is a rare non-U2 submission from RIFF co-founder and Editor-in-Chief Roman Gokhman. And for once I didn’t just include it because he could fire me and cancel the column on a whim, crushing my hopes and dreams with a cold iron fist and salting the earth on which they once stood.

My complaint for the past few editions is that the early ’00s were corporate and sanitized, as I may have mentioned once or twice, and Franz Ferdinand was one of the few bands that managed to break through that and be different. That alone would put them on the list, but then in addition, this specific song is really good and would make most lists. If only this was the template for the era.

The Killers — “Mr. Brightside”

This one was submitted by RIFF editor, writer, photographer and all-around cool person Chloe Catajan. (Seriously, she brings the editors’ coolness average up quite a bit. If she left, we’d probably start covering Barry Manilow within the week).

My friends are generally surprised that I like The Killers; it’s as close as I get to a guilty pleasure since I stopped feeling shame back in 2008. There are certainly artifacts of their contemporary sound, but there’s also an underlying musicality that much of the era lacked. They have high points, like this radio-friendly hit, that occasionally put me in a mood to give them a listen.

Admittedly I usually make it through an album or so before I switch back to my all “Careless Whisper” playlist, but it does come up.

Wilco — “Theologians”

Now we’re edging into the zone where it gets a bit more grudging. David Gill, writer extraordinaire, pitched this one, and I was, and still remain, skeptical.

I’m not really a Wilco fan, and this didn’t make the final list until the last possible minute. The deciding factor was that after listening to it, the tune kept reappearing in my head for hours. Whether that’s good or bad is up for debate of course; it’s infectious, but so is herpes.

Arcade Fire — “Rebellion (Lies)”

We have another appearance by Rewind arch nemesis and significant percentage of RIFF L.A. Bureau, Kyle Kohner.

I’m not happy about it either, OK? But here we are.

Like Wilco, I’m not big on Arcade Fire. They kinda personify the aspect of rock music I didn’t like from this era. That said, they personify an era, which means they’re well-loved enough to be influential. So someone must like it? I mean, Kyle likes it, for what it’s worth. And the band is still around.

I might be the weird one here, and I’m willing to accept that. So they make the list. [Gokhman note: Yes, Willis. You’re the weird one].

KT Tunstall — “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree”

Finally we come to my submission for my own column!

When Katharine McPhee from CBS’ hit series Scorpion did her floor-based cover of KT Tunstall’s song on American Idol in 2005, it managed to benefit them both. In a rare twist, America’s best karaoke singer made an actual musician’s song popular rather than the usual tactic of using real artists’ work to promote marginally talented people grasping at unearned fame.

Tunstall’s album originally stalled out, charting at 73 in the U.K. before immediately disappearing again. A few factors, including American Idol and a nomination for the U.K.’s Grammy equivalent, the Mercury Prize, dragged the album back from the depths and brought it as high as No. 3 in the U.K. and 33 in the U.S.

And that’s great. Closing out a mediocre year with such a fantastic song makes me hope I’ll complain less next week. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Honorable Mentions

Modest Mouse — “Float On”
Rachel Yamagata — “Reasons Why”
My Chemical Romance — “Helena”
Tegan and Sara — “Walking with a Ghost”
Green Day — “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”
Jonathan Coulton — “The Future Soon”
Jimmy Eat World — “Pain”
Snoop Dogg — “Drop It Like It’s Hot”
U2 — “Vertigo”

Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at Twitter.com/BayAreaData

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