Access to behind-the-scenes rock-band life has become increasingly commonplace on TV — and the lives exposed seem increasingly banal. (Dudes: Anything you’d dream of trashing Led Zeppelin has already destroyed twice as monumentally.) It’s tough even to cock an eyebrow at backstage behavior anymore.
In this environment, it’s become a luxury to catch insight into a young musician who isn’t mired in the juvenile. Enter Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos, a dapper singer and, more recently, a de facto columnist. In September 2005, the Scot began writing — for the U.K. newspaper The Guardian— a tour diary that focused on the food he ate while traveling the world. The results of that journey are now available in book form as Sound Bites: Eating on Tour With Franz Ferdinand.
Independent of Kapranos’ rock-star status, Sound Bites is a fun read. Turns out he’s a sharp foodie with a droll wit who’ll try anything once. Bulls’ balls? Raunchy. Deep-fried insects? Crunchy. Blowfish? Nothing exceptional. As he moves from Brooklyn to Bangkok and beyond, the chowhound weaves in tales of working in various kitchens as a young man, building himself up as a diner who knows his jus from his otah. The book also hints at the inner Kapranos in other ways — as someone who performs sweet revenge on a haughty hotel GM, for example, or who’s saddened by the pathetic state of his fridge because he hasn’t been home in two years. Beyond the observations about countries, cuisines and characters temporarily entering his life, Kapranos eloquently personifies some of the items he devours, such as a pair of pheasants in Glasgow: “My mind races with macabre romanticism, imagining the dead lovers’ human traits. He’s a preening fop, proud and dandy. She’s a Laura Ashley librarian; shy, but bright.” As the title suggests, Sound Bites is a quick buffet of brief vignettes — but it’s not the size of the platters that matters, it’s the flavor of what’s been served. And Kapranos’ essays are exceptionally rich.
SOUND BITES: EATING ON TOUR WITH FRANZ FERDINAND| By ALEX KAPRANOS | Penguin | 144 pages | $13