Release Date: Jan 27, 2009
Record label: Sony
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Review Summary: Franz go electro, embrace their true nature, and make their best album yet. If there's one indie who don't need telling that they should just concentrate on being a great pop band, it's Franz Ferdinand; and yet, that's exactly how much of the popular media will probably respond to this, the band's third full-length. Eschewing the darker, more psychedelic edges of You Could Have It So Much Better and replacing the diversity they provided with a renewed focus on synthesizers and electronic textures, it's probably exactly how the writers of sub-tabloid gossip magazines like Heat, Bliss, and New Musical Express imagined how things would turn out when the news was leaked that Franz were working with Xenomania.
New sounds show up gradually over the course of Franz Ferdinand’s third album: a groove that’s more rubbery than usual here, a hint of dreamy synth there. Those flourishes never add up to a radical reinvention. But they don’t need to, as long as the group’s dance-punk ?formula remains in working ?order. The mix of Alex Kapranos’ louche croon with the band’s ?disciplined racket is still a knockout, and they’ve switched things up enough to keep it interesting.
First, look at this image. What you just saw was the cover photo for John Zorn’s seminal avant-jazz masterpiece Naked City, released in 1989. To this day, Naked City remains one of jazz’s most polarizing, uncompromising albums, filled with noise squalls, insane tempos, and Zorn’s furious sax dueling with Bill Frisell’s wild guitar licks at any given moment.
Throughout the rest of album, however, Franz Ferdinand alternates between putting their rave-ups in slightly different skins and taking some real chances with their music. With the most familiar-sounding songs at the top, Tonight's song sequencing might be the most pop thing about it: "Turn It On"'s stop-start rhythms,"Send Him Away"'s Afro-pop-tinged guitars, and "Can't Stop Feeling"'s DFA-like percussion and fuzzy synths are minor refinements on the sound the band has used since Franz Ferdinand. A few songs transcend templates, like the unrepentantly rakish swagger of "No You Girls," which boasts saucy lyrics like "kiss me where your eye won't meet me" and a cleverly twisting chorus that expresses the album's theme of smart enough to know better hedonism perfectly.
Aflawless debut album is first a blessing and then a curse. Just ask the Strokes, or the first British band to echo their economy and poise, Franz Ferdinand. On their eponymous 2004 outing, Franz knew exactly what they wanted to do and they executed it to perfection. They conjured something fresh from Orange Juice's bookworm funk, Roxy Music's devilish art-pop panache and disco-punk's slicing groove, while Alex Kapranos fashioned a persona that was at once brainy and horny, as if all his talk of constructivist art and highbrow cinema were just a cunning strategy to impress fine-boned art students at Godard retrospectives, the better to whisk them off to the club and thence to his boho bachelor bad.
Franz Ferdinand's third album has had a difficult gestation. Before Kylie collaborator Dan Carey took the production helm, there were abortive sessions with the eclectic DJ and producer Erol Alkan, talk of African influences and, most intriguing, an attempt to work with Girls Aloud's visionary production team Xenomania. Alas, the latter collapsed owing to the kind of musical differences you suspect may have involved Franz Ferdinand recognising their own limitations.
In case you hadn't noticed, Franz Ferdinand are pretty smooth. Back in 2004 they highjacked the mainstream like they were the last gang in town. With their sharp lines, nonchalantly economical songwriting chops and the cool sophistication with which they competed with the army of US leather and hair bands that descended on us at the turn of the century, they had us thinking that maybe this small island still had something to offer in the big stakes game of multi-platinum, international chart-bothering.
Having enjoyed remarkable success with the 80s throwback sound of their Glaswegian forebears Josef K, Franz Ferdinand are reluctant to give up the jerky post-punk grooves that got them where they are now. Rather than risk experimenting with anything radically new, they've cautiously tried tweaking their tempos and varying instrumental textures here and there in hopes that listeners won't notice that they've written the same song about romantic frustration in 12 slightly different ways. Sadly, recycling the lyrics of No You Girls for Katherine Kiss Me doesn't count in their favour as an act of green.
The pitiful decline of a once-great bandTerrible bands make terrible records all the time, which is fine. No point wasting energy on whatever Nickelback's up to these days—those dudes can't help themselves, and are free to suck as much as they'd like.But it's been a long time since a band as good as Franz Ferdinand made a record as appalling as Tonight: Franz Ferdinand. Truly, the four dapper Scotsmen that constitute this group should be ashamed of their tuneless, thoughtless, meaningless new offering, which distorts the proud legacy of a band that once mattered.
Everyone was in love with Franz Ferdinand five years ago, yeah FIVE years. That’s how long it has been since the band’s self-titled debut hit the music world. I remember staying up late one night and seeing their cartoon-ish, low-budget video for “Take Me Out” and all I could remember is how cool that tempo change was. They received high praise from critics and fans alike and even received Grammy attention.