Review Summary: It probably won't have the same impact as their first two albums, but Franz Ferdinand's comeback is still an engaging listen.
It’s hard to believe that nearly four years have passed since we last heard from Franz Ferdinand. When you consider all that has happened since their last release however, this gap may seem somewhat short. The Scots exploded onto the scene with the tremendous Take Me Out
in 2004, which was followed by a string of other successful singles and an excellent self-titled debut album. The timing of their breakthrough was perfect. Not since the days of Britpop had the UK had any decent guitar bands, having to make do with American imports such as The Strokes and The White Stripes instead. Franz Ferdinand kept their momentum going with the quick release of a second album, You Could Have It So Much Better
the following year. Although it didn’t quite match their debut, it was another excellent album, which like its predecessor produced a string of hit singles, most notably the irresistible Do You Want To
This initial momentum burned out however, meaning that we have had to wait nearly four years for a follow-up. Much has changed in this time, with a new line of British indie bands following in Franz Ferdinand’s footsteps in gaining chart success and critical acclaim. In this time, Kaiser Chiefs, Razorlight and most notably Arctic Monkeys have challenged if not taken Franz Ferdinand’s throne as the UK’s best loved modern indie band. But, with the sales of some of their younger competitors gradually falling, as well as the time of the year, with very few high profile albums surfacing so early in the calendar, this seems like a good time for Franz Ferdinand to return.
The build-up and recording of their third album was by no means a smooth affair. The band experimented with various new musical directions, including African and reggae, and went through a number of producers, most notably the Xenophobia group, who are behind pop sensations such as Girls Aloud and the Sugababes. Eventually they settled on a style and abandoned the collaboration, instead opting for Dan Carey. The album that has resulted, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand
is, according to Alex Kapranos loosely based on the concept of a wild night out, unlike the first two, which were designed to make girls dance and cry. Rumors have been circulating that the album is a huge step away from their first two, with guitars being largely replaced by synths, and a far poppier writing style.
Any fears old fans may have of the album being a complete departure from the bands old sound however, are instantly eradicated by the first song, lead single Ulysses
. Simply put, this is just classic Franz Ferdinand, with quiet verses leading to an excellent infectious chorus, albeit with far more prominent synths. In terms of lead singles, Ulysses
does not better Take Me Out
or Do You Want To
, but is nevertheless a solid song capable of wetting fans appetites. There are other moments here where Franz Ferdinand stick to what they know, What She Came For
could easily have come from the previous album, as could the very danceable Turn It On
which was, according to Kapranos originally intented to eb the lead single from said album.
Other than these blasts from the past however, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand
is very different from anything the band has done before. The fact that Ulysses
is driven by synths rather than guitars sets the tone for the rest of the album. This new sound has generally mixed results. There are instances like on Can’t Stop Feeling
that Franz Ferdinand wander a little too far down this new direction, resulting in songs that could easily be labeled as disco. Can’t Stop Feeling
actually works quite well, but this excessive experimentation may not go down too well with some fans. There are also some songs such as Send Him Away
that certainly have promise, but never really develop beyond that, leaving much to be desired.
When they get it right however, the results are a joy to listen to. No You Girls
has quite possibly the catchiest chorus the band has ever written, and must be a contender for next single because of this. The song has a real dancy, upbeat feel, as well as typically flirty lyrics, brilliantly delivered by Kapranos. The albums centerpiece is Lucid Dreams
, which clocks in at just less than eight minutes. The first half is classic Franz Ferdinand, upbeat, catchy guitar pop with witty lyrics and an infectious chorus. The song then progresses with a lengthy electronic instrumental, providing an epic climax. The content of this song, as well as its sheer length make it undoubtedly the most ambitious they have put to record so far.
Although it is far from a perfect album, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand
is a very worthy addition to the bands discography. It’s not as consistent as either of its predecessors, but the strength of its best tracks is enough to consider it an improvement on You Could Have It So Much Better
. It is highly unlikely that this album will have anywhere near the same impact or influence as their first two, but it definitely has enough to please most fans and to spawn more successful chart hits, possibly kicking a rather flat UK indie scene back into gear.
No You Girls
Can't Stop Feeling