Review Summary: While it may be the same material dressed up in different colors, there is nothing wrong with adding variation to a winning formula. It’s just a shame the material is not as consistently memorable as on their debut.
Even when performing seemingly repetitive pop fodder, it is always recommended to pay attention to Scottish quartet Franz Ferdinand’s lyrics. More often than not they will throw in at least one gold nugget of a line or something to tell you where their heads are at. ‘Ulysses’, the lead single and opener to their 3rd full-length release ‘Tonight: Franz Ferdinand’, continues this trend with a number of tell-tale snippets.
Make what you will of the “Come on lets get high” line, but it is two other connected lyrics which really set up what will take place over the following 43 minutes. In amongst the slinky bass-driven beginning, lead vocalist Alex Kapranos proclaims “Well I’m bored, I’m bored” just before the cut morphs into an electronica infused piece. Kapranos then follows up with the appropriate “I found a new way” as synthesizers combine near-perfectly with the band’s trademark dance-rock guitars to make for yet another thoroughly satisfying lead single. The way in which they almost hide the infectious “la la las” on ‘Ulysses’ shows that the band have lost none of their pop sensibilities, no matter what the musical backdrop.
The opening third of ‘Tonight’ then continues to lay an impressive foundation for the remainder of the LP. Kapranos is at his charismatic best during the verses of 2nd single ‘No You Girls’, while the chorus is right up there with the most catchy of their career. Meanwhile, ‘Twilight Omens’ contains hooky electronic components, alluring wordplay and silky smooth vocals (a formula repeated later on ‘What She Came For’ and ‘Can’t Stop Feeling’) to make for another Irresistible piece.
In overly simplistic terms, Franz Ferdinand have basically reduced the guitar work associated with their music and replaced it with greater electronica. This is clearly a nod to breakout acts such as The Klaxons & MGMT. However, fans of Franz (& non-fans of those other bands) need not worry since their renowned talent has seen the Scots blend these components rather well. The problem – relatively speaking of course – is the same deficiency which existed on 2nd LP ‘You Could Have It So Much Better’; a number of solid but unmemorable tracks. The rhythm heavy ‘Turn It On’ & ‘Send Him Away’, and the disco groove of ‘Live Alone’ all fall into this grouping and are unlikely to be the tracks which have you coming back to ‘Tonight’.
Similarly to some of their previous killer tracks – and ‘Ulysses’ for that matter – Franz Ferdinand are often at their very best when writing songs that have many twists and turns. ‘Bite Hard’ is one of those as it goes from a methodical piano-ballad to what can best be described as electro Rock ‘N’ Roll. Practically the whole family could dance to this cut, whether it be your unfashionable Elvis loving parents or your techno-head sister.
And then there is the uncharacteristic ‘Lucid Dreams’ which beefs up a relatively standard 4 minute song by proceeding to double that duration with a trippy static-filled instrumental section which is more likely to be heard in underground clubs than on mainstream charts. While it sounds like a dubious idea on paper, it actually works well in isolation and as a lead-in to the closing duo of ‘Dream Again’ and ‘Katherine Kiss Me’, both of which are sufficiently effective melodic ballads.
At the very least, ‘Tonight: Franz Ferdinand’ is an interesting record. While cynics may suggest that the Scottish quartet have sneakily just dressed up the same material in different colors, there is nothing wrong with adding variation to a winning formula. Fans of the band should still enjoy this release, while there could also be new converts due to the use of electronica. The usual Franz highlights appear, while there are once more no outright awful tracks. It all results in yet another very solid Franz Ferdinand album, even if it is not as outstanding as it could have been had it included a few more memorable songs.
Recommended Tracks: Ulysses, No You Girls, Bite Hard & Twilight Omens.
Easy there Goran, or else I'll start an "Aussie Aussie Aussie Oy Oy Oy" chant and then we'll see who has back up!
Thanks Croc. And you raise a really good point with your comment. I think fans of Franz Ferdinand who are not really into electronica could use this album as a bit of a pathway into some of the more accessible electronic artists. If you like this, there are a number of other artists that also fuse electronica & guitars. I've had a mental blank on all but the obvious (Klaxons, MGMT, etc...) right now, but I'm sure other people can chime in with any albums that 'Tonight:...' reminds them of. At the very least, it may be worth keeping in mind when reading future reviews.
Another good review under the belt, Davey. Who's next on the list to be reviewed?
On topic, theres only a very small number of electronica bands i enjoy, even then they're not all that electronic, they just fuse it with something else. I'd like to enjoy more of it, but it gets so boring lol.
Thanks Billy. I'm listening to a lot of Rise Against in the lead-up to the concert next Friday, so I may just have to complete my review of their discography.
And yeah, I think I am similar to you on electronica for the most part. I tend to like the singles from most of the bands you are alluding to, but the album tracks tend to be filler to me. For example; MGMT, Klaxons, The Presets & Empire of the Sun.
Good review, good album, not as good as s/t but better than YCHISMB. I think that this has some of Franz's weakest stuff on it (Send Him Away, Live Alone), but the strength of the better tracks is easily enough to hide that. I've had Ulysses in my head literally all year, and No You Girls is their catchiest chorus yet imo. I loved Lucid Dreams as well, basically cos it's so different to anything else they've ever done.
Great review Davey as per usual. Obviously I disagree with your rating. Some of the electronics feel out of place and the whole album feels stogy in the middle, but undoubtedly the good songs on this are really great.
The line on Ulysses "Come on lets get high" gives further evidence for my claim that Britains water is traced with LSD :-).
Thanks Ali. I can't really add to your comments as I pretty much agree with them all. I rate this fractionally better than 'YCHISMB' at the moment, but that may be because it is fresher.
Nagrarok, the good thing about reviewing discographies is once you get going on the first review, it can tend to flow through to the others (hence why I can sometimes churn them out so quickly). Of course, the negative side of that is that I/you have to be careful not to get too repetitive over the multiple reviews.
Thanks Ross. LOL about the "come on lets get high" line. I actually hadn't thought of that. As difficult as it was, I attempted to treat this album sort of like a debut from a little known band as I think one of the reasons the electronics can feel out of place is due to comparisons with their earlier albums. Does anything feel out of place? I dunno... Maybe, but not so much that it goes anywhere near ruining the album for me.
Need I say that this is a great review?
I vote you do Hysteria next, then you can follow through with my DFelon suggestion also, it might give me a chance to go on a rant about how bad 80's stadium pop/rock was, which is always a plus in my mind.
Haha I guess if you think of this as a debut it probably deserves higher than a 3, but it isn't a debut, Franz Ferdinand are a talented and popular band, and I think they can do better than this. The middle of the album is far too weak.
Thanks Spamue1. And man, are you winding up for this rant or what? I think I'll let you wind up a little further. I tell you what though, it will be posted before I head off on vacation in mid-May.
Ross, that's not to say I increased my rating because I sort of tried to consider this as a debut. I can assure you that the 3.5 I gave it is on face value. It was more just for judging the sound withour pre-meditated ideas I guess.
I didn't mean to sound as hostile as I came across Davey, and I'm sure you gave the album a rating reflective of the content. To be honest (and I think I mentioned this in my review) I don't even think the change is that great; certainly there is less dependance on the guitars and an increased usage of synths, but not to such a degree that one couldn't tell it was the same band that released Franz Ferdinand back in '04.