It's been four years since the mixed reception to You Could Have It So Much Better. But no matter what your opinion of Franz Ferdinand's second album, there's one track that, for me, signaled fairly early on which direction they might take for their third outing. The closing Outsiders was an homage to Joe Meek and it's Meek's use of unearthly tonalities and 'wall of sound' production that carries over into the new album Tonight: Franz Ferdinand.
...aggressively aimed at the dancefloorBut it's not just the twiddly, squashy, swooshing electronics that get prominence here. Chuck in cartloads of disco inflected bass and guitar too and you get the impression this album is firmly and aggressively aimed at the dancefloor rather than the arena. Which is fine because I've never seen them as stadium rockers at all. They fit very nicely into the art rock tradition of Roxy Music or Blondie and here their manifesto is about consolidating what's worked for them on their two previous albums and ditching some of the awkward, fumbly arrangements. In the process, they've grabbed onto a pulsing Moroder and naive Meek style of electronics, choppy, funky bass from Chic and a twitchy propulsion reminiscent of the art-rock stylings of David Byrne and Tom Verlaine. Although their flirtation with Girls Aloud production team Xenomania seemed to lead them into a creative cul-de-sac it's evident that some of their approach to the creation of dance anthems has rubbed off.
There isn't enough contrast until the very end of the album.
The problem here is that most of the album is dominated by songs that share a similar structure or construction. What this means is that the majorty of tracks, although very good, tend to blur into one another. There isn't enough contrast until the very end of the album. The worst you can say is that this sounds more or less like the last two albums save for a tightening up of song structure and arrangements and the best you can say is that there is sonic playfulness going on. Lyrically, this pretty much seems to be about those universal boy-girl romantic tropes and the nervous battle of the sexes set within the context of getting ready to go out on the town and throwing some shapes on the dancefloor. It's all about delayed gratification. And Alex Kyprianos' nudge-nudge-wink-wink singing takes the lyics as a series of sexualised one-liners and come ons to Leslie 'ding-dong' Phillips proportions. What we're left with is frustrated sexual predator using a repetitive verse-verse-chorus-chorus-break-chorus-climax on pretty much all of the songs.
Glitter Band and Afro-pop with a Joe Meek like 1950s sheen.Still, there are the positives. The energy and tension is effective and the stand out songs, finely honed amalgamations of Ferdinand's best bits, do shimmer beautifully in their glam disco overcoats. 'Ulysses' proudly displays scratchy guitars, fizzing and swirling synths, 'No You Girls' is the epitome of the above lyrical philosophy with its coquetish grumble at the fairer sex propelled by pumping percussion and funk, squally guitars, sing-a-long chorus and hand claps. 'Send Him Away' seems to marriage Glitter Band and Afro-pop with a Joe Meek like 1950s sheen. 'What She Came For' has stabbing electronics and a Talking Heads shouty spikiness with Alex sounding like Bryan Ferry. My personal favourites are on the end of the album, starting with 'Live Alone'. Swishy synths and bleeping electronics, Joe Meek styled rising organ riffs, and full-on disco rhythm section to the fore that will probably sound great in a club. It's a slightly more distinctive track than what's come before.
Spotify: Dream Again
...the return to the bedsit after a high night on the town.The eight minute wig-out of 'Lucid Dreams' is the real highlight. A clattering mash-up of squelchy electronic beats, screeching guitars and sonic playfullness that shows us that Ferdinand have ideas that can take them in interesting directions. At about five minutes in they are just content to let the bass synths itchily contort through the soundfield with bashing drum beats and what sounds like someone searching for a corkscrew in the kitchen drawer. And Alex keeps his gob shut. Lovely. The album finishes with two ballads. One, 'Dream Again', goes for psychedelia and BBC Radiophonic Workshop electronics and is a lovely come down from the rest of the album. Sweet, lyrical and again a direction they can espouse. The acoustic finale, 'Katherine Kiss Me', is tender, restrained and wonderfully surreal, the return to the bedsit after a high night on the town.
An album that promises the most exciting night of clubbing but then turns into the boredom of repetition as each club you visit is playing the same ruddy songs or variations thereof. Then you stumble on a little place tucked away in a back street and have a ball.
TONIGHT: FRANZ FERDINAND - Franz Ferdinand (Domino CD WIGCD205 - Released 26th January 2009)
Cathode Ray Tube Franz Ferdinand Tonight Franz Ferdinand
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