Album Review: Franz Ferdinand – Tonight: Franz Ferdinand

[Domino; 2009]

It’s been just over three years since Franz Ferdinand released their sophomore album You Could Have It So Much Better and for some it has been a long wait, especially considering the time between their first two releases was half as long. The band as you can imagine have been keeping themselves busy, particularly singer Alex Kapranos, with production, collaborations and even a spot of journalism.

In 2007 it was back to business for the Glaswegian quartet who began work on this; their third album Tonight: Franz Ferdinand. During the recording of this album Franz members stated that they were making a more diverse record, claiming that the new songs were influenced by different musical styles including reggae, electronica and dub. Disappointingly, or maybe thankfully depending on how you look at it, the style of the songs on this album are not as much of a departure from their older ones as may have been expected. There is certainly a more dance feel to some of the tracks, helped greatly by heavy synth use and bouncy bass lines which are at the fore of the mix, but most of the songs are still based around jagged guitar lines and simple drumming which is what Franz Ferdinand do best. That’s not to say some of these tracks would feel out of place on the dance floor though, if played in the right situation.

Almost every track on the first half of this album is single worthy; “Turn It On” and “Send Him Away” display the steady swagger that we’ve come to expect from Franz Ferdinand and they’ve produced what might be their biggest anthem since “Take Me Out” in the fantastic “No You Girls.” With its stadium-sized chorus it’ll be a surefire radio hit. It features uninventive “la la la” lyrics, so you might be forgiven for thinking that “No You Girls” is Franz Ferdinand by the numbers, but within a few listens you’ll be swept up in it and your previous doubts will have been forgotten.

For those who like to look further into the context of the album, there is definitely a case to be made that it is a concept album of sorts, soundtracking a night out drinking and dancing with friends. The tail end of the album is definitely the come down, the levels of energy steadily drop and a more reflective mood takes over. It also allows Franz to showcase some different styles. “Can’t Stop Feeling” is a fuzzy take on afrobeat and will have you wanting more of its tribal beat long after the song is over. Perhaps the biggest step away from the “Franz Ferdinand sound” is “Lucid Dreams,” an experimental dance-rock track that clocks in at 7.56; the only song on the album to fall outside of the pop-friendly 3-4 minute area. The last three minutes of “Lucid Dreams” are a mesmeric funk meltdown that sounds unlike anything the band have done before, it also signals the end of the main portion of the album. Following it are two much slower songs that stand in stark contrast with the rest of the upbeat songs, “Dream Again” and “Katherine Kiss Me.” The former is a throwaway track that’s instantly forgettable whilst the latter is a nice reflective acoustic song that sounds like the morning after the eventful night that was described to us in the body of the album.

Whether you consider this a concept album or not there is no denying that lyrically the main theme of the album is based around nights out in pubs and clubs, and as with almost any British nightclub these days there is a sexually charged atmosphere hanging over the whole proceedings. Sex always seems to be on singer Alex Kapranos’ mind from the aforementioned ‘Lucid Dreams’ to the hypnotic “Twilight Omens” (sample lyric: I typed your number into my calculator/where it spelled a dirty word/when you turned it upside down/you can turn my dirty world/the right way round).

Overall it’s a strong return for the band after their hiatus. Perhaps the things that fans of Franz Ferdinand should be most thankful for is not just that they’ve finally returned, but also that they can still write hooks as well as they ever did. We should also be grateful that they haven’t overstuffed this album with throwaway tracks to bring it up around the hour mark, as seems to be the case with a lot bands at the moment. In total its running time is just over 42 minutes, the perfect amount of time for a healthy dose of alternative pop music.