Thursday, April 9, 2009

Franz Ferdinand -- Tonight

Franz Ferdinand -- Tonight (Domino)

Coming on the heels of a pretty close to perfect debut album, Franz Ferdinand’s second LP, You Could Have It So Much Better, was considered somewhat of a disappointment. I can see why some folks thought this, as the album simply didn’t have as many great songs. But I liked how the band tried to split the difference from building on its classic post-punk meets dance pop sound, while adding some new styles to the mix. The attempts didn’t always succeed, yet they showed promise for even better things for Franz Ferdinand.

Rather than build on those new ideas, on album number three, Franz Ferdinand has retrenched. If anything, the post-punk touches of the past are barely audible, as the band narrows in on the goal of getting people to shake their asses. This results in an album that has great surface appeal. However, repeat plays reveal that the grooves overwhelm the band’s lyrical and melodic talents. So this is an album that will sound good at parties, but track for track, it’s a bit of a step backward.

Which isn’t to say that I don’t like it. There are three absolute killer songs on this album. The lead track, and first single, “Ulysses”, is slinky and sexy, with Alex Kapronos full of insinuation, setting the tone for the album: “I’m bored, I’m bored/C’mon, let’s get high”. The song gets into a full groove in the chorus, and there’s an awesome downshift in the middle eight, before the song builds to a big finish. This is an instant classic.

“No You Girls” uses a similar musical template, finding a mid-point between funk rock and icy Roxy Music cool. What makes this song shine are the sharp lyrics: “Kiss me/flick your cigarette and then kiss me/kiss me where your eye won’t meet me.” The song captures the lunkheaded nature of a club guy, complaining that girls don’t understand “how you make a boy feel,” but turns the tables near the end of the song.

Towards the end of the album, the band hits another nice rock-funk groove with grand musical gestures on “Lucid Dreams”. The groove is complimented by icy melodic keyboards that create a compelling contrast. Eventually, the electronics dominate the song, as there is a lengthy synthesizer breakdown (shades of Giorgio Moroder) that takes a cool song and makes it ten times cooler.

There are some nice change up tracks, like “Bite Hard”, which starts off gently before turning into a pulsing rock tune and the chilly synth-pop ballad “Dream Again”. But the band goes to the dance and chant well a bit too often, making individual tracks sometimes hard to distinguish.

Nevertheless, despite the sameiness of some tracks, every song sounds really good and this might be one of those albums that I will like much more after I see them live. Because these songs will sound great in concert.

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