10 January 2009

It's here! It's finally here! After months of leaks and various ever-changing descriptions, the third album from Franz Ferdinand has finally found it's way to my ears, four long years since "You Could Have It So Much Better". It's gone from being a pop album, produced by Girls Aloud collaborators Xenomania, to being influenced by world music (thanks to a few Africa Express gigs with Damon Albarn) to finally ending up as "music of the night: to fling yourself around your room to as you psyche yourself for a night of hedonism, for the dance-floor, flirtation, for your desolate heart-stop, for losing it and loving losing it, for the chemical surge in your bloodstream. It’s for that lonely hour gently rocking yourself waiting for dawn and it all to be even again". That's according to Alex Kapranos. Well he wasn't gonna come out and say it's boring, derivative shite. It's far from it.

"Ulysses" kicks off the long over dues shebang with a cool, confident strut. Kapranos' smooth vocals are some of his best ever, Bob Hardy's bass is restrained yet has a certain something that makes it utterly danceable (if that make sense) and the electro parts definitely have a positive effect. "Ulysses" is the first single from the new album, and it's clear to see why, as it's basically the midway point between old indie rock Franz and the new electro-pop Franz. "Turn It On" is in the same vein, perfect for the indie disco, more sultry vocals from Kapranos but with added "yeah, yeah, yeahs" worthy of John, Paul, George and Ringo.

The hooks keep coming "No You Girls" and "Twilight Omens", both packed with keyboards, plenty of riffs and Bowie-ness, with the latter having possibly the best opening lyric of the last few years in "I wrote your name upon the back of my hand/Slept upon it then I woke up with it backwards on my face/Reading forwards from my mirror to my heart ". It's a bit more advanced than "Do You Want To", to say the least. Up to this point, "Tonight:..." is full of solid pop gold, surpassing the majority of Franz's back catalogue, which is no mean feat. The middle of the album slows the pace down a bit, and shifts from electro to almost disco, the keyboards mixing incredibly well with the usual Franz indie stompers. "Bite Hard" is even quite Beatles-y before transforming into what could be the perfect summary of the album's sound.

"What She Came For" was already released a while ago, but in live form. The recorded version has little difference from it, apart from the riffs being tighter and cacophony of guitars at the end being even more thrilling. "Can't Stop Feeling" is yet another track to rank along side FF's best, all choppy guitars, sultry vocals and a perfect addition in the electro elements. The leaked demo was a much poppier affair, possibly a result of the Xenomania involvement, but the album version is all the better for not being standard pop-with-guitars. And then it's possibly the most talked about track on the album, "Lucid Dreams". The track was also previously released, but in a much different form. The leap from typical Franz fare to an 8 minute techno monster is an extremely difficult and unexpected one, but they pull it off. It's highly experimental for such a big name band on their third album, but it shows their ambition and talent to create something like this, which appears to go off into a hundred different places but comes back to one direction. There are obvious some elements of the original version left in it, but it's essentially a remix (possibly what to expect from the dub version of the album). It may not impress the casual fans, but I doubt Franz care.

The final two tracks "Dream Again" and "Katherine Kiss Me" are a world away from the previous ten. The keyboards are restrained (or in the case of "Katherine" gone completely") and the songs are all the better for it. Both build on the softer tracks of "YCHISMB" such as "Eleanor, Put Your Boots On" and "Fade Together" to create two sweet ballads, once again verging on Beatles territory. Franz, whilst not as innovative, trail-blazing, ingenious and many other superlatives as the Fab Four, are just as brave. No other band from the indie boom in the mid 00's could change direction like this (apart from possibly Bloc Party) and pull it off with panache. The added electronica opens a lot of doors for Franz in the future and makes it very exciting to see where they'll head to make their fourth classic. I just hope it doesn't take another four bloody years.
ESSENTIAL TRACKS: "Ulysses", "Lucid Dreams", "What She Came For", "Bite Hard", "Katherine Kiss Me"


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