Franz Ferdinand: Tonight
After a three-year-long hiatus and, seemingly, a bit of growing up, Glasgow’s most famous indie rock sons Franz Ferdinand are back with ‘Tonight: Franz Ferdinand’, an album that, while reaffirming their exceptional ability to make “songs that girls can dance to”, also paves the way for an exciting future sound. While their previous two efforts have played like compilations of well-crafted and invariably danceable tunes (with the odd introspective mellow track here and there), ‘Tonight’ nicely veers off the beaten path with subtler, darker songs and more innovative content, both lyrically and musically. As the album progresses, the tunes transform from the familiar rambunctious, club-hopping theme with the energetic first single “Ulysses”, to pensive, meditative sounds on “Dream Again”, to the endearingly sweet closer “Katherine Kiss Me”, a sonic arc that follows the transition from a riotous night out to the rather apologetic morning after.
In this album, as with their previous two, charismatic lead singer Alex Kapranos’ voice fully steals the show, exhibiting in turns slick devil-may-care nonchalance, brooding introspection, bashful diffidence, and nearly everything else in between. When he expressively whispers that “last night was wild” on “Ulysses”, one is unquestioningly inclined to believe that it was. When he pleads to let him “stay tonight” on the jealousy-ridden “Send Him Away”, one wholeheartedly roots for the girl to consent to his request. When he croons “I know the places you call home, yeah / You know I’ll get you on your own, yeah” on the creepy “Turn It On”, one can easily imagine him as a lovelorn stalker. This turncoat voice, paired with tidier drumming and more capable guitars, catapult ‘Tonight’ to a level above their sophomore effort, ‘You Could Have It So Much Better’.
A sonic arc that follows the transition from a riotous night out to the rather apologetic morning after.
Several songs on the album speak of a messy break-up that the singer is unsuccessfully trying to overcome. On the wistfully yearning “Live Alone”, his claim of contented solitude turns into voluntary resignation to live alone forever after having lost her. In “Bite Hard”, the gentle, lilting piano melody unexpectedly explodes into synth-pop melodrama as he tries in vain to convince himself (and his ex) that he’s capable of moving past the fresh split, captured succinctly with the fantastic “I never resort to kissing your photo, honest/ I just had to see how the chemicals taste now, honey”. The electronic tinge resurfaces on “Can’t Stop Feeling”, which channels a gloriously indie-dance-rock Boney M. The delightful duo of “No You Girls” and “Katherine Kiss Me” has almost identical lyrical content; but while the former suggests a brash playboy, condescendingly blasé about doing “the stupidest things”, the latter, with an acoustic beauty reminiscent of a lullaby, hints at a lover remorseful of doing the same unwise deeds. This innovative technique of companion pieces from different perspectives is a tell-tale sign of creativity that we may expect from the band in future projects. The spectacular “Lucid Dreams”, longer and more experimental than any other Franz Ferdinand track, and distinctly different from their initial “Take Me Out” days, also alludes to this significant shift in their sound.
‘Tonight’, with its fresh sounds and inventive lyrics, branches out beyond the band’s comfort zone of pristine dance-rock, and can be considered a transitory stepping stone to their later albums, which may explore a more electronic-infused and more cleverly restrained sound. While it does not match up to the high-octane overdrive that their indie rock classic debut ‘Franz Ferdinand’ offered, it still retains the wit, charm and undeniable magnetism that these sleek hipsters have always offered, while infusing a welcome maturity into their blossoming sound. In any case, it certainly seems as though the Glaswegian lads fully intend to keep and maintain their rightful five-year reign as the true Saviours of Indie Rock.