You may be reading this to see if the Scottish quartet could do it again — make a record original enough to pique the interest of music snobs, yet accessible enough to capture a mainstream audience. You may be questioning the viability of a genre classified as "rock music you can dance to." You may also be wondering if Franz Ferdinand slipped into the sophomore slump that plagues indie bands like Avian Flu does indigent fowls.
While Franz Ferdinand's new record You Could Have It So Much Better might elicit a variety of such doubts, they are all answered with the first track, "The Fallen." Yes, the quartet can, and did, do it again. Yes, there can be rock music you can dance to, and no way does this album come anywhere near the realm of sophomore slump. Although You Could Have It So Much Better is not as good as their self-titled debut, it still surprises, enthralls and most importantly, rocks.
Is it a positive or negative if your 53-year-old mom likes the same band you do? On one hand it is a knock to your pride. Your mom is supposed to like Bonny Rait, Dolly Parton or Mama Cass, not one of the hottest bands from the indie rock circuit. But then again, stop being such a snob. Not liking something just because other people like it is a completely invalid reason to dismiss it. Get off your high horse and realize that maybe other people can recognize good music too and your "too-cool-for-school" taste in music is cool enough for school. So just because Franz Ferdinand is on MTV and just because your mom might like that jam "Take Me Out," that's no reason to write off Franz Ferdinand.
Enough of the diatribe and on to what the album actually sounds like. The first song, "The Fallen," is hands down the best on the album. It is fast, catchy, has sweet lyrics, head-nodding drumbeats and a brain-draining guitar riff. How did this song did not make the cut for the first single? But then again, very seldom does the best song on an album make regular radio or TV play. The song is solid instrumentally, but it is the lyrics that might make "The Fallen," one of the best songs of the year. Reminiscent of a Steven Segal action flick, "The Fallen," details why pain isn't such a bad thing. Lyrics like, "I never feel pain, won't you hit me again? / I need a bit of black and blue to be a rotation" get pounded into your brain as if Mike Tyson's fists of fury were delivering them straight to your cranium.
"The Fallen," is not the only song worthwhile on You Could Have It So Much Better. Other upbeat, poppy songs of interest are the original radio single, "Do You Want To," as well as "Evil And A Heathen" and the album's title track. Franz Ferdinand's second album differs from their debut in their ability to craft a slower, more methodical song. Tracks like "Walk Away," and "Fade Together," give Franz Ferdinand a certain depth that was lacking in their previous album. The best of the slow jams is "Eleanor Put Your Boots On." The only song on the album that showcases a piano, "Eleanor Put Your Boots On," sounds almost as if Sir Paul McCartney himself had penned it.
Where the lyrics stand out in songs like "The Fallen," they seem severely lacking in others, like "This Boy." Instead of the band's characteristic smart lyrics, the chorus of "This Boy," consists entirely of the phrase, "I want a car / I want a car / Yeah!" Although this seems to be an isolated case of 'dumb-lyrics-itis' it still is a thorn in the side of a good album.
Another slight drag on You Could Have It So Much Better are the two songs, "I'm Your Villain," and "Outsiders," that break the four-minute barrier. Franz Ferdinand's M.O. is quick blasts of energetic rock, and any song that drags on past four minutes grows tedious.
With Franz Ferdinand, you get what you ask for — upbeat rock songs with a smattering of slow ballads. While this method works for the most part, their next album needs to be something different. You can only do so much with "rock music you can dance to." Maybe lead singer Alexander Kapranos will take a bunch of acid and write some really psychedelic tunes, or maybe he will create a really out-there concept album or maybe he will just make a bad album and everyone will forget the awesomeness that is Franz Ferdinand. But for now, relish an album that should, and most likely will, impress you.