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Review

Franz Ferdinand hits a home run with ‘Tonight’

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February 5, 2009

After a three-year hiatus which seemed to go all but unnoticed, the glossy, high-energy Scottish rockers Franz Ferdinand have returned to the music scene with their third album, “Tonight: Franz Ferdinand.”

If there are indeed a finite number of catchy hooks in the musical world, other modern rock acts should be getting nervous by now, because Franz Ferdinand continues to churn them out at a breakneck pace.

Lead singer and guitarist Alex Kapranos explained on numerous occasions before the album’s release that the band was experimenting with alternative sounds and exploring new rhythmic avenues. “I’d like the next album to be quite new, to be quite different sounding than anything we have ever done before,” Kapranos said during pre-production.

Their last album, “You Could Have It So Much Better,” exploded out of the gate with inspired intensity, but the record was top-heavy and fizzled towards the end (“like a teenager having sex,” as Kapranos put it). On “Tonight,” the Glasgow group slams their feet on the gas pedal and refuses to let up.

Although difficult to categorize into a specific genre, this is more of a dance album than anything else. “Twilight Omens,” pulsates with a steady, overdubbed synth beat that should equal bliss for diehard fans. Tracks like “Bite Hard,” “Turn It On” and “Ulysses” are filled with purring feedback instead of the usual violent electric guitar strokes. All the songs on the album play out like a Friday night party scene, with most lyrics evoking adolescent images of chasing pretty girls, getting high and refusing to worry about adult concerns.

“Oh no you girls’ll never know / No, you girls’ll never know / How you make a boy feel,” Kapranos wails on repeat in his unmistakable Scottish brogue.

The band saves the juiciest treat for the latter end of the disc, with the brilliant “Lucid Dreams,” which can almost be categorized as two entirely different tracks. The first four minutes find the band channeling the stadium rock vocals of the Killers, while the rest of the song is a wordless, guitarless techno affair that abruptly transports the listener into the middle of a rave party.

If it wasn’t already apparent before the release of “Tonight,” it’s now clear that Franz Ferdinand has entrenched themselves at a level above their post-punk contemporaries, far loftier than their Scottish peers the Futureheads and the Kaiser Chiefs.

Tonight sees the popular quartet do things a little differently, but the resulting sound is unmistakably Franz Ferdinand. The collection of songs is an embarrassment of riches that won’t make you want to turn off your iPod, or stop dancing anytime soon.

Andrew Phelps is an alumnus of UW-River Falls.