Franz Ferdinand hopped on the scene and hit the big time with their self-titled debut. This statement seems superfluous now, but the success story is simply amazing. On the strength of sublime lead single “Take Me Out,” Franz Ferdinand was everywhere: on radio, on television, out touring, and on the charts. It’s a shame that they proceeded to essentially disappeared from the popular music mindscape; sophomore release You Could Have It So Much Better was a really great release, offering a more fine-tuned take on the Franz Ferdinand sound. Indeed, I love them so much for the energetic near-disco feel offered by their brand of rock. Theirs is certainly some of the most danceable stuff around.
With such a buildup (thanks to previous records), I was very excited to finally get the newest Franz Ferdinand release. While I was ready for another slight sound shift, I had no idea that Tonight would represent such a drastic departure from the previous mold. It is now time to enter the new realm of Franz Ferdinand.
The whole thing opens on “Ulysses,” and instantly there is something different. The sound is far darker, even from the first note with a popping bass that was never so powerful in the past. Before the band can guide the song into familiar sonic territory, deep use of electronic sound is introduced. This is a radical shift in the Ferdinand canon. While the past involved disco and dance, this song actually roots from techno. Interestingly, the menacing, strutting voice offered by Alex Kapranos fits this new style very nicely.
All but one of the twelve songs features this new focus on techno beats. Admittedly, the concept functions far better than I initially imagined (“Twilight Omens” and “Live Alone” both use their electronic noises to an excellent effect). However, the novelty wears off in some songs. One such offender is “Can’t Stop Feeling,” where a repetitive loop of sound permeates the whole track. Unfortunately, any fun to be derived from the sound is completely extracted in the first flew loops. The worst use of electronic noise comes in the final version of “Lucid Dreams.” This epic piece has a falsely inflated length thanks to a strange electronic coda that would seem more appropriate on an LCD Soundsystem album. The concept is not bad, but the context is.
So where does that leave the album? Interestingly, the overall result is swayed toward the positive thanks to a bit of old-fashioned craftsmanship. Franz Ferdinand, unlike on past records, have finally put together a very cohesive set of songs. The whole effect is very reflective of the evening in title – early songs are more raucous, seeming to represent the man on the prowl, out to party. But with both “Can’t Stop Feeling” and “Lucid Dreams,” the feeling shifts drastically to a sense of remorse and near-reflection. As Tonight reaches a conclusion, the final songs become light and sobering. Particularly the touching finale “Katherine Kiss Me” finds the narrator recalling the words from previous songs and understanding his new place.
Tonight, impressively, has a theme and marked progression when taken in the intended order. This is quite a feat for any band, and that fact makes up for the bothersome use of techno elements. Therefore, I can recommend the newest Franz Ferdinand release with a sense of slight enthusiasm. While the sound may be initially upsetting, the full package is a nice evolution for the band.