CD Review of You Could Have It So Much Better by Franz Ferdinand
Heartless Bastards: The Mountain
Label
Sony
Franz Ferdinand:
You Could Have It
So Much Better

Reviewed by John Paulsen

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T
hey could have kept touring. They could have stayed out on the road for another year, hitting the same cities over and over, continuing to push their self-titled debut while making loads of cash. Instead, they avoided the usual post-tour extended vacation and moved into a country house just South of Glasgow, to write and record their sophomore effort, You Could Have It So Much Better. It was a risky move - the debut was just a year old and continues to sell like hot cakes (assuming that hot cakes still sell well). While the band still likes their first disc, they wanted to move on, and after listening to YCHISMB, most fans will be grateful they did.

First, to clear up a few common misconceptions about the group:

1) No one in the band is named Franz Ferdinand. Although the group still sometimes gets two dressing rooms - one for “Franz Ferdinand” and one for “Franz Ferdinand’s band” - the group is named after the archduke of Austria, whose assassination in 1914 was one of the triggers for World War I. Tell that to most of their fans and see what kind of perplexed reaction you get.

2) Franz Ferdinand is not completely Scottish. They did meet in Glasgow, and drummer Paul Thomson was born in Scotland, but the rest of the band hails from different parts of England.

3) Franz Ferdinand is not gay. Though the lyrics of "Michael" probably started this rumor (and kept the excellent song off countless frat party mixes), the entire band is straight, not that it should matter.

YCHISMB was originally supposed to be self-titled, but the band changed its name at the last minute to match the disc's eleventh track because they thought the title was optimistic yet confrontational, reinforcing the fact that even with the success surrounding their debut, the band isn't resting on its laurels. The album takes a bit longer than its predecessor to sink in, which is mainly due to the increased complexity of the songwriting. It's always worthwhile to examine the first track, as it is usually a good example of what statement a band is trying to make with an album. In this case, "The Fallen" contains both the melodic and vocal hooks one would expect, but is a bit darker and more frantic than their previous work. The message? "We're still Franz Ferdinand, but we've changed." The second track (and first single), "Do You Want To," sounds like vintage Franz Ferdinand - if such a thing can even exist - but with a swagger, serving as a response to those who thought the debut was a bit stiff. The song’s lyrics are based on conversations frontman Alex Kapranos overheard at a party and, not surprisingly, they ooze with sexuality.

Like their first disc, a vast majority of the tracks are upbeat and contain at least one glamorous hook and all the usual high hats that will keep their fan base dancing and happy. However, against type, the disc does contain a pair of intimate ballads. Kapranos’ relationship with the Fiery Furnaces’ Eleanor Friedberger inspired the piano ballad, "Eleanor Put Your Boots On," which doesn't make a noticeable impact on first listen, but you may soon find yourself waking up in the morning with its delicious chorus bouncing around in your head - at least I did. The other ballad, "Fade Together," is a sweet, longing song about forever, which is a bit radical coming from a band whose lyrics are usually limited to the happenings in the present.

While there don’t appear to be any songs with the mass appeal of their debut’s “Take Me Out,” fans of the first disc, with persistence, should still enjoy this effort. You Could Have It So Much Better is one of the best albums of the year and after a few listens, it’s clear that the band’s ballsy move to stop touring and start writing paid off in spades. Thanks for the new tunes, guys.

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