Has it really been just over three years since the Glaswegians released their lacklustre second album You Could Have It so Much Better? While Franz were off looking for their mojo, they collaborated with rapper Kano during an African Express event organised by Damon Albarn, they scrapped sessions with pop producers Xenomania (State would love to hear the results of that one) and hinted at new directions on the horizon with short looping snippets of Kraut-grooves and African rhythms on their website. Anyone expecting change of those kind of suggested proportions, will be, on the face of it, disappointed.
The courting of new sounds at first seems to be an exercise in ‘getting it out of our system’ as Tonight finds Franz Ferdinand settling into sounding like Franz Ferdinand once again albeit it with added synth and a nod towards something a little different. But not too different. The opening triptych of ‘Ulysses’, ‘Turn It On’ and ‘No You Girls’ feature the same wink-wink, nudge-nudge, standard-issue promise of before but scratch a little deeper and these songs become something a bit more substantial. The disco-orientated production makes the songs swagger at high volume, perfect for the dancefloor of an indie club.
If Tonight is intended to chart a night of excess, then it is a delight to welcome the album version of ‘Lucid Dreams’. Where the radio version was a carbon clone of previous singles, the extended 8-minute album version is flourished with a looser arrangement and a three minute electro wig-out at the end. Quite a turn. As is gentle guitar of ‘Send Him Away’ which is the only African touch present here. There are suggestions here that some of the abandoned experiments the band worked on leading up to the release of this album have given them the confidence to avoid a complete creative cul-de-sac and they are back to their modus operandi of “making music that girls can dance to”.
In a recent interview singer Alex Kapranos admitted that no matter what sounds they tried, they still ended up sounding like Franz Ferdinand. Maybe as a result, Tonight is a more textured/advanced version of the Franz sound while simultaneously refusing to shut the door on the blustery choruses of their debut. We’re left with an uneasy feeling that they teased us with expectation a little too much as it’s harder to fall in love the third time around.