Tonight is a half-realised dream.
Keira Burgess 2009-01-20
Scottish post-punk revivalists Franz Ferdinand return with album number three. Stylistically it's part predictable rhythm and lyric set, part surprisingly innovative electronic experiment. As a whole, it's a persuasive argument for courage of conviction.
The release of the band's previous albums have each brought a seeming change in role: from bright young hopes of mid-noughties Brit-rock with their self titled debut, to mentors of the next generation with the second, You Could Have It So Much Better. The three year gap between the latter and this, their self-proclaimed experimental third, seems to have produced a slight, and perhaps welcome detachment from the scene which dangerously lauded them in their fledgling stages.
Stashing themselves away in a disused town hall in their native Glasgow, the quartet used the difficulties and acoustic qualities provided by their environs as a starting block when recording this 12-track collection. Previewed as a dub-influenced dance-floor filler with African and Jamaican traces and an abundance of loops, it promised to be a startling development in the band's musical output.
In realisation, the songs are a hit and miss mix of material, some typifying the Franz brand but executed with an electronic twist, and other instances of genuinely interesting ideas which live up to the aim from which they were conceived.
One such example is the eight-minute Lucid Dreams, with 80s drumbeats, synth and interludes of echoey tremolo guitar and riffing. Here the experimental elements fit well together, the structure flows and the conviction in the concept allows the idea to shine. Unfortunately, it is not so for the whole of the album, with some tracks, including Turn It On and No You Girls shying away from innovation almost altogether, and others - Twilight Omens and the single, Ulysses, teetering on the edge of ingenuity in their verses, but retreating to the well-known Franz motif in the chorus.
Where their innovation is strongest, it succeeds. Send Him Away has touches of country and western with superb guitar picking and opening hand-claps, while Dream Again is a quirky, electric lullaby in the vein of Eels' Novocaine For The Soul. And Kiss Me, Katherine, with unusual percussive contribution from a human skeleton, is a timeless, gentle ballad of acoustic guitar, piano and the lyric "how the boy feels... how the girl feels", which is a repetitive theme throughout the album.
Tonight is a half-realised dream. If only they'd been braver, it could have been brilliant.