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. With all of that, they chose a distinct change of pace for their next album and there are no qualms about the sound on Tonight, a concept album dealing with a night out, filled with debauchery and the eventual morning come down.
Trying out everyone from Brian Higgins to The Xenomaniacs, the band finally settled on Dan Carney to co-produce. With the expectations high and the band being extra choosy about their next release (did I mention five years?), the sound is something drastically dissimilar and yet it’s strangely familiar. The toe-tapping riffs are still in place, the attention to tempo and style inflection is still around and most significantly, their ear for melody is as strong as ever.
They are no more apparent than on the opening single, “Ulysses.” Leading up to the chorus, the music squelches and builds into a furious mix of brash synths and deep-rooted chords—the kinds that make your walls vibrate. From here, until the end of the song, everything is louder than before and these aforementioned keyboards are always front and center. One thing is for sure, they’ve beefed up their sound, a lot.
Now, there was an album after the debut, 2005’s You Could Have it So Much Better, and that was an album that proved to be confusingly titled. The music was just as good as the previous album and for some, including yours truly, it was a better album. The change in those two albums was that there was already a shift towards a bigger sound. Everything comes full circle with songs like the dance-disco of “Turn it On,” the baroque and medieval sounds of “Twilight Omens,” here the keyboards sound like something out of the 60s and they lend their hands with fluid ease, and the 80s-pop of “Live Alone.” These are songs that feature that same killer verse and chorus trend but they work within the album’s sonic scope, one that reaches far without ever stretching and one that always thrives.
The powering “Can’t Stop Feeling” is a bouncy and electronically-charged pop song and it features some of Kapranos’ best singing and lyrics. This is the letdown after the night out, the feeling where everything washes over you like a cruel dream and the lyrics, “So boy you’re down and alone, your soul is broken again” are brutally honest. But nothing sounds as beefy or as daringly bold as “Lucid Dreams;” heavy-laden with bass and pounding drums, here is what your mind is going through as you try to rest. It swells and grows with every added step of synthesizer and before you know it, it ends with a four minute bash of instrumental bliss. Frankly, whether or not you enjoy the break-down is a matter of taste but it’s brilliantly composed and more importantly, extremely different.
The twists and turns are left for the end and the gorgeous acoustic guitar closer, “Katherine Kiss Me” is an equally unique and smart move. It sounds almost like a lullaby, what with its tenderly expressed vocals and an endearing piano that only briefly joins in. With such a long break between albums, most will probably call this a letdown on its own. But what Franz Ferdinand have proven is that not only do they make impressive albums but that they are capable of trying out new sounds with great skill. It’s still the same band we fell in love with, only they have incorporated more sounds into their arsenal and with songs as good as these, it’s a welcome addition.