Review Summary: Living up to previous high standards can be a b!tch, but Franz Ferdinand have done a good job with this fun & cohesive LP which after a fantastic start does not contain the same depth of quality as its predecessor.
What exactly is in Britain’s drinking water that makes their residents such an opportunistic lot? Like Oasis before them and the Arctic Monkeys after them, Scottish 4 piece Franz Ferdinand have wasted no time in capitalizing on the success and critical acclaim of their debut album by releasing their follow-up well within a 2 year timeframe.
Interestingly titled ‘You Could Have It So Much Better’, any concerns of a dip in quality due to a rushed release are initially unwarranted, as the first 2 tracks are both fantastic and contain all of the band’s trademark qualities. 3rd single and album opener ‘The Fallen’ includes those superb guitar hooks which were all over their self-titled debut LP. Meanwhile, lead vocalist Alex Kapranos seems even more assured here as he attacks the wordy lyrics with supreme confidence, while the “woo woo” backing vocals and “la la la” bridge work a treat.
Providing a nice counter-balance, lead single ‘Do You Want To’ follows with the humorously playful opening of “Well I woke up tonight and said I’m gonna make somebody love me… And now I know that it’s you. You’re lucky, lucky, you’re so lucky”. The glorious glam stomp which follows is likeable, catchy, entertaining and extremely memorable. It is genuinely pleasing to see that the band has not got too enamored with their own success, as they clearly don’t take themselves too seriously here.
One of the minor weaknesses of their self-titled debut was the lack of a genuinely great ballad. On face value, Kapranos’ charming voice should lend itself to pulling off such a feat successfully and Franz Ferdinand rightly take 3 stabs at it here. Easily the best of them is 2nd single ‘Walk Away’, which contains a lovely guitar-driven melody and superior vocal harmonies. Later, the piano-driven duo of 4th single ‘Eleanor Put Your Boots On’ and ‘Fade Together’ both provide for some nice variety, even if they won’t be to everyone’s liking.
However, the depth of quality from the debut is clearly not as evident here on ‘You Could Have It So Much Better’. This is not helped by the fact that Franz get the track-ordering a little wrong with the lead three singles and LP highlights being positioned within the opening 4 (of 13) tracks. It is not as if there are any bad songs following the opening quartet, but cuts such as ‘Youre The Reason Im Leaving’, ‘Well That Was Easy’ and ‘What You Meant’ all fail to live up to this album’s highlights or pretty much anything from their debut. Wisely, most of these tracks are short and direct.
The overall description of “solid, but relatively unmemorable” is generally apt, but probably a little harsh on the bass-driven ‘Im Your Villain’, which switches tempo throughout and is simultaneously complex and straight-forward to have it rise above the pack. Could at least some of these songs have been improved if this album was not released as soon as it was? Possibly. One thing that is for certain is that the LP is worse off for excluding the catchy and extremely melodic ‘L.Wells’, which was not recorded in time for the album’s release and was eventually used as the B-Side to ‘The Fallen’.
Living up to previous high standards can be a b!tch sometimes and it is difficult for any listener not to compare ‘You Could Have It So Much Better’ with Franz Ferdinand’s self-titled debut. The excellence of the first 2 tracks build up false hope to some extent, but in comparison, the remainder of the LP clearly does not contain the same depth of quality as its predecessor. While many songs are better in the moment rather than being memorable, this is still a very good album in isolation and a fun and cohesive listen overall.
Recommended Tracks: The Fallen, Do You Want To, Walk Away & I’m Your Villain.