Music Reviews
You Could Have it So Much Better... With Franz Ferdinand

Franz Ferdinand You Could Have it So Much Better... With Franz Ferdinand

(Domino) Buy it from Insound Rating - 6/10

The other night, my roommate and I threw a wannabe cocktail party in our formica-coated bachelorette pad. As the evening wore on, I found myself, as usual, locked in vodka-addled conversation with my friend Emery. Emery has, inexplicably, decided that I am some sort of arbiter of cool, at least when it comes to music. This suits me fine, since I get off on molding would-be scenesters, and he's already got the whole aviator-sunglasses-inside-the-apartment-at-night thing going on. In any case, he got particularly excited (you can gauge by the intensity of lip-biting and air guitar) when I mentioned Franz Ferdinand, because "that song they have on that commercial" is really fucking good. "Dance rock. This is just what I need right now."

Okay, obvious judgments and snide remarks aside, he's totally right. Take Me Out is probably their best song, and I'm only slightly bitter that Apple and Sony and God only knows who else are puking up millions for 30-second soundbytes. The dance rock moniker is spot on - it's impossible to listen to the archduke and sit still. It's the reason that the most pretentious of hipsters aren't embarrassed to listen to them, even though Franz Ferdinand can hardly be called "indie" anymore (iPod, what?).

The thing about You Could Have it So Much Better... is that they're clearly trying to Broaden Their Horizons... away from the dance rock genre. I kind of hate it when bands try to Broaden Their Horizons. More often than not, they regress into some incredibly overdone style that sounds nothing like their own. I don't remember a single slow number on Franz Ferdinand's self-titled (you can still dance to Auf Achse), but here we have a number of melancholy tracks that, truth be told, are surprisingly sub-par.

It's not that I have anything against slow numbers per se, but Franz have carved an entirely different niche for themselves. Not only do these tracks sound forced, but they're unoriginal and, let's face it, poorly written. Walk Away, a sugary, twangy number complete with whiny oo-ahs in the background, sports such lyrical gems as "I am cold/Yes I'm cold/But not as cold as you are," and "The buildings will fall down (don't you walk away)/The quake will split the ground (won't you walk away)." Meanwhile, Eleanor Put Your Boots On, which sounds like something off the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack, is repetitive and boring both in the tug-at-your-heartstrings piano line and the wavering vocals. I hear it's about the chick from the Fiery Furnaces, though, so I guess that's pretty cool. Well That Was Easy, is at least danceable, but I'm not sure I can forgive the "Kill me now" refrain. Fade Together is a rip-off of just about every song written between 1960 and 1963. Imagine rainbows and happy couples. Dancing to early Beatles. In 3/4 time. It's hard for me too, I know.

Now that I have that off my chest, we can put it all behind us and move on to the good stuff. At least they had the sense to open the album with a rocker: The Fallen is replete with those catchy riffs that we've come to hold so dear. They seem to do a lot better with the lyrics in their faster numbers, too. We get a bit of that familiar clever rhyming: "Some say you're a troubled boy/Just because you like to destroy/All the things that bring the idiots joy/Well, what's wrong with a little destruction?" Nothing at all, Alex Kapranos. Nothing at all. Do You Want To is a little bit British Invasion, a little bit 80's one hit wonder, and, although a bit too reminiscent of Come on Home, still pretty damn exciting. I am reticent to write off Evil and a Heathen as a simple punk-inspired track (it's much more pop than anti-establishment), but the jumpy refrain is just so infectious. All in all, quite an impressive array of feel-good foot-stompers, certainly enough to give Franz Ferdinand a run for its money.

I don't want to give the impression that I'm disappointed. The excellent-to-annoying song ratio on this album is definitely high. Still, their first record was solid from start to finish, and this one smacks so much more of Lennon/McCartney than Kapranos/McCarthy. Although I won't be relegating it to the back of the CD case where all sophomore releases go to die, I can't help thinking that, well, ...we could have had it so much better.