I was driving around one night and my son stuck this CD into the player -- Franz Ferdinand's second album, You Could Have It So Much Better -- and two or three tracks into the thing I suddenly knew that these guys were brought up on the Kinks. Alex Kapranos' lead vocals have that same soft campy flutter that Ray Davies trademarked in the mid-1960s; their lyrics are similarly compact little short stories; and they pack their songs with addictive riffs and tuneful hooks that are nearly impossible to get out of your head. And sure enough, in interviews they've said they were influenced by the Kinks -- though their original goal was simply to write music for girls to dance to. Well, I for one am sure ready to dance.
"Eleanor Put Your Boots On" is one of my favorites. I think of it as a long-distance romance song, only not a moaning mushy I'm-missing-you song. Knowing that these guys are from Scotland, I was surprised to realize they were singing about New York -- the Brooklyn dirt, the Coney Island roller coaster, Greenpoint, and the Statue of Liberty (which they describe as "the statue with the dictionary"). But that's where Eleanor is, apparently, and the narrator of this song is urging her to put on some sort of fairy-tale seven-league boots that will let her take a giant leap over the ocean back to him.
It's a sweet, wistful fantasy, with an electric piano dithering around; the volume builds and then fades, the melody sighs up and down, and you can almost feel the gusts of the jetstream that'll carry her home. It shifts despairingly into a minor key in the instrumental bridges, with some harder-edged guitar and drums layered on, but then the narrator straightens himself out and sweetly woos Eleanor again. At one point, as he's advising her to leap off the Statue of Liberty's fingernails, he throws in a yearning "yeah!" that is simply adorable.
"I could be there when you land," he keeps offering, shyly -- "I could be there when you land." Well, if she doesn't take him up on it, she's a fool. I'm tempted to go buy me a pair of those boots myself.