Review Summary: Franz Ferdinand return with their most inconsistent album to date. Whilst the highs are undoubtedly brilliant, the lows bring a stark sense of reality for a band that has failed to live up to their early promise.
Four years after their last album You Could Have It So Much Better
hit the shelves, Franz Ferdinand are back with their latest would-be masterpiece Tonight: Franz Ferdinand
. Despite being suffocated with promises from Alex Kapranos and company that this would see the band stretch their musical abilities and diversify from their trademark post-punk sound, it all sounds a bit familiar. True, there are subtle hints during the album that the boys really did try to alter their sound, but in the end it ultimately boils down to an increased dependency on the synthesizer and less on the guitars. Whilst this is not necessarily a bad thing, it does feel like the boys have eventually succumbed; following the direction that British indie is taking rather than leading the herd, and for a genuinely promising band on their third studio release it is all a bit disappointing.
The sad fact is that this album is a shadow of what it could have been. There are enough good moments to show general promise for a band that has stagnated of late, but the uncharacteristic amount of filler leaves much to be desired. The band has always had the ability to deliver hugely impressive debut singles, and Ulysses
is no exception. Easily out doing both Take Me Out
and Do You Want To
in terms of both ambition and quality it kick starts the album to life, providing a stunningly catchy chorus with sing along vocals that will no doubt become a stable part of live shows. In fact, the opening to the album has no problems at all, with Turn It On
continuing the promising start, showcasing the new dependency on the humble synthesizer whilst keeping the quirky wit and style that the boys are accustomed for.
The sheer irrepressible fun of No You Girls Never Know
is next up, starting with a funky bass line and snappy vocals to continue the great start to the album. However the first sense of unease in the album comes with the start of next track Twilight Omens
. Whilst not a bad track in itself, it does signal the transition from the fun openers into tracks which take themselves a lot more seriously, to the extent that it is detrimental to the music offered. Live Alone
is possibly the most representative track on the album due to its similarities with everything on offer. The synths get turned up to an unprecedented level, and it is this in conjunction with the sad lyrics that make the song so arrestingly catchy…at first. However, like the album as a whole the track gets boring rather fast. The vocal delivery from Kapranos becomes stale, something that before this release would have been unheard of.
During the album it becomes apparent very quickly that diversity really doesn’t work for a band like Franz Ferdinand. Despite the image of smart young men, the changes that they have implemented in this release do nothing to really expand on their sound at all, and it is not a coincidence that the best tracks on the album are tracks that sound remarkably similar in structure to their previous material. The gaping snooze-fest in the middle brings the album down drastically, and whilst Lucid Dreams
offers some late redemption, with hypnotic bass riffs and a fun chorus with Kapranos on top form, it doesn’t bring enough to the table to make up for the tracks preceding it.
At the end of the day, if you liked either of Franz Ferdinand’s first two albums, there will be enough in this release to satisfy; but the satisfaction given will be more akin to that of a smoker chewing nicotine gum than of the full satisfaction of a cigarette itself. This release is infuriating, as the experimentation that the band took was in the right direction, the overhaul just wasn’t done with enough determination to succeed, leaving us with an album that undoubtedly has highlights, but is filled with just as much filler, leaving a feeling of disappointment. Ultimately this change in direction by Franz Ferdinand has lead to a dead end, and although the risk should be applauded, it is how they pick themselves up from this that will determine whether they have the staying power that many give them credit for.
Turn It On
No You Girls Never Know
Overall 3 Good