Saturday, January 31, 2009
Tonight: Franz Ferdinand
If you didn't know, I write music reviews for inyourspeakers. Thought I'd start sharing them here for anyone who likes to be in the know, now.
Turn it on. Turn on the dance moves. Turn on the techo beat. Turn on the sound of a reinvented Franz Ferdinand. In the third album from the Glasgow-based band, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand makes a new statement for the world of pop (but wait, you were expecting indie-rock, weren't you? So was I). The question for the listener then becomes, did Franz need to be reinvented in the first place? No? No. And yet, despite the deviation from my expectations, there was still a little somethin' somethin' that I liked about this album.
Tonight: Franz Ferdinand marks a departure from the Post-Punk sounds that gave the band their first taste for fame and embraces an eclectic conglomeration of sounds and inspirations. The entire album, excluding the final track, is full of an electronic streak as well as beats and sounds echoing Jamaican reggae and other influences. All of this works together to create the perfect atmosphere for a club. Thankfully, what remains consistent with all three of Franz Ferdinand's albums is the groups talent for finding that danceable rhythm we crave. This album just takes the dance beat and puts it in the spotlight while the lyrics take a bit of a back seat.
While the album is very danceable, it also grows slightly stale by song five. The lyrics vacillate from witty to irreverent to their characteristic deadpan humor, but the first five songs of the album feel so much alike the they could have been made into one long dance party song. This might be the biggest complaint from FF fans. Without paying attention to the lyrics and the subtle differences of the album, it would be easy to say that one song is hard to distinguish from the next. Drummer, Paul Thomson, keeps a steady and yet similar beat throughout the album. This might not necessarily be a bad thing as the beat is strong, the sound is clear, the feeling is intense, and the album itself plays nicely through as a whole. And yet, by the end of it, you feel slightly less than satisfied because it was like they were trying a little too hard to impress and didn't quite succeed. I wanted to be surprised and I wasn't, and yet, I wanted to dance and I did.
The albums first release was "Lucid Dreams" and remains one of the albums highlights. The song is a journey in and of itself, lasting almost eight minutes, with the last three being devoted completely to an electronic symphony that many will find as pure bliss to the ears (I personally didn't, but I'm different that way). The lyrics echo an idea of finding truth and love and meaning when the definition of all three are just out of reach, or might only be able to come to fruition in your dreams. As Alex starts out with his singular sound posing the idea of "I'm gonna give my aimless love, my angry heart, my desire. I woke with wings from lucid dreams, I knew the reason I felt hollow was that I may never know if there is some great truth or not." What is the truth of the album? Much of it revolves around real love, first love, fake love, pick up lines and cigarettes.
One of the most danceable and sexy songs on the album is "No You Girls." Alex starts out with the words "Kiss Me"...not really a request as much as it is a command (one that I would HAPPILY oblige, by the way). It poses the same scenario as "Katherine Kissed Me" which is the final track and the only song on the album not injected with a techo beat. It's a revisit of a typical ballad, but better because it's by Franz Ferdinand. Both songs address men who fall in love with girls who show little, if any, interest. Both songs pose the question of getting a girl to think of the situation of wanting a first kiss from a man's perspective. It's all very sensitive, very sweet, and yes, you do start to wonder "how the boy feels." Yet again, you wonder what the fascination is with all these women smoking their cigarettes and looking to the men with a sense of boredom instead of urgency.
"Ulysses", the title track on the album is synth-heavy and clever. Much of the song is dependent on Alex Kapranos's whispery and sexy vocals, he just sounds good. He just sounds original, and he just has a sound that I want to obey. For that reason alone the album is worth a listen or two.
Tonight: Franz Ferdinand is full on dance club material. People will gather. People will grind. People will forget the woes of a long work week by listening, and yet, when they listen closely, they'll find that nothing really caught them off guard about the whole event.