Friday, September 16, 2005

It could have been much worse with Franz Ferdinand

Well, the new Franz Ferdinand album leaked and survey sounds like a Franz Ferdinand album. The formula was tweaked (some looser drumming, extra guitar distortion in spots and a couple of ballads) and the songwriting is occasionally muddier and less catchy but all in all it’s pretty much par course which is a relief for everyone who felt underwhelmed by the shrug inspiring single Do you want to?

Not making any tremendous sonic leaps forward the second go around was probably a good move as the band has been steadily gaining fans since their runaway self titled success, but at the same time it makes this second album somewhat unnecessary considering they covered most of the stuff here (and better) the first go around. Still, it’s a very listenable album and a certain number of tracks will be sure fire hits on white dance floors across the world: You’re the reason I’m leaving, I’m your villain and the album closing, show stealing centerpiece Outsiders are classic examples of the dance beats that made the band work in the past and the success continues this go around. The aforementioned album finale particularly stands as one of the best neo disco riffs that Franz has ever committed to tape and the dub harmonica and keyboard laden outro hopefully points towards future developments for the band. Meanwhile, much ado was made over the album’s two ballads, songs that have been referred to as Kinks like or Beatlesque which would be a notable departure for a band whose post-modernism goes no further back than the late 70’s. Eleanor put your boots on and Fade Together aren’t anywhere near Davies or McCarthy level songs (or Collin Meloy, Jeff Magnum, Kevin Barnes level for that matter) but they DO work and complaints are unwarranted considering how the songs give this sequel a sonic variety that the original lacked. They may be a "dance" band but they prove to be a competent "band" period which is a nice surprise considering things could have been much worse. Perhaps the best experiment on record however is Walk Away; a nice acoustic-electric hybrid that manages to somehow synthesize everything Franz wants to be in a nice little package.

On the down side, some stuff sounds tired: Well that was Easy sounds like both the song title and the effort put into said composition which lazily re-scoops the band’s tempo-change dynamic from Take me out for the umpteenth time on this album alone to much less success than usual. It’s not bad but it’s not that impressive either although perhaps my opinion will change the 50th time it gets hammered into my head by mainstream radio. More generally, the heavier, messier guitars featured on certain parts of the album really don’t help the band in the slightest as the greatest thing they had going for them was finally ridding rock of the excess distortion forced upon us by the remnants of the tired alt-grunge movement. By cranking up the amps, they trade off the power of their backbeat and if anything the band NEEDS the groove to remain distinctive and to elevate them from the legion of white kids with guitars in every corner of the western world. I mean, when the title track to your album is basically a punk-rock record with catchy drumming, it’s time to get worried.

All in all, even with minor changes and gripe-worthy material the band is still one of the most interesting acts to hit “the big time” in quite a bit. I can’t say that I’ll be listening to this much in album form, but there are at least half a dozen songs here that I wouldn’t mind rocking out to in the radio or at a party and that’s really all I ask of Franz. And plus they’re still that much better than the unbearable Bloc Party and that’s got to count for something.


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