Monday, October 10, 2005

Franz Ferdinand, “You Could Have It So Much Better” (Actually, I Don't Know If They Can)

On first blush, I actually thought Franz Ferdinand’s new album, “You Could Have It So Much Better,” was actually better than the British group’s eponymous 2004 debut.
OK, so I went back and listened to the latter and remembered why it’s an A+.
But even with that mark to live up to, this quartet of Glasgow guys said screw you to the sophomore slump and—in a little more than a year, mind you—turned out another stellar, stellar album.
The “IT” band of 2004 is back in a major way in 2005, vying for record of the year honors for the second year in a row—which is basically unheard-of in today’s music scene.
“So Much Better” grabs right from the beginning with “The Fallen,” a killer opening track that is as good as (or maybe better than) anything on the band’s previous album—yes, even the omnipresent “Take Me Out”—and sets a tone for the onslaught to come. Turn-it-up-loud-captain moments continue essentially for the rest of the album, as Franz Ferdinand take a breather only for a moment on the lilting, McCartney-esque “Eleanor Put Your Boots On,” which serves as a nice piano-infused bridge between sides A and B.
Forced to choose, other favorites would include “Do You Want To” (just wait for the main melody to kick in and tell me it doesn’t give you a shiver), “Evil and a Heathen” and “I’m Your Villain,” but if you put these 13 tracks up on a wall and threw darts at them, you’d hit a bull’s-eye every time.
Make no mistake, though. The members of Franz Ferdinand are not out to save the world—a truth they readily admit. I haven’t spent any amount of time trying to figure out what any of these songs mean, because they’re too much fun in the first place (keep throwing me lines like “what’s wrong with a little destruction” and I’ll keep coming back for more). They are, however, masters of catchy, infectious hooks and tunes; this is the definition of pop/rock, hearkening back to the 1960s when good music was still played on the radio.
Really, the only thing separating Franz Ferdinand’s first two albums is the group’s own success, because “So Much Better” feels like the work of a band that has benefited from extensive touring—this album is even more crisp and refined and musically solid than the last. The only drawback is that the group’s first batch of songs was so good and they’re so ingrained in my head, it’s hard to supplant them. You might as well consider this Side Two of the same record.
No wonder they originally considered not giving it a name.
Grade: A

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