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You Could Have It So Much Better by Franz Ferdinand

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Reviewed on 1st November 2005.


You Could Have It So Much Better

By Franz Ferdinand

That's right folks, the notoriously troublesome second album is due, you've used all your best tunes on the first one and back home everybody else has re-hashed them behind your back while you've been busy conquering North America. Cue the rattle of freshly stickered compact discs in the racks of Relics and the frantic sound of distraught record company executives rushing to check their wobbling share prices on their Blueberries. With 3.5 million copies of the debut album shifted and the impressionable hearts of a nation's skinny-tied schoolgirls (and boys) set a-quiver, Franz Ferdinand find themselves facing something of a dilemma: how to ride the fraying coat-tails of a Zeitgeist you soundtracked 18 months before? The answer, it seems, is to write some bigger, even better tunes and turn the amps up very LOUD.

And it's clear from the bombastic opening salvo of 'The Fallen' that the boys are back, and boy do they mean business. A beehive of buzzing guitars explodes into a dentist's drill of a riff, before Paul Thompson's scattergun drums clatter and cascade in such a way that you absent-mindedly find yourself beating them out on the bus in the morning rush hour. It's a snaking, hip-shaking devil of a song, a theological discourse on sin and virtue laden with biblical imagery. "What's wrong with a little destruction?" asks Alex Kapranos after 45 seconds, both a signpost towards the hedonistic ride to follow and Franz's worthy inheritance of the (post) punk manifesto of the Class of '76.

We all know lead single 'Do You Want To' by now. It is very silly and about as deep as a small puddle, which possibly makes it one of the best pop singles of the decade so far. Having successfully buried itself in our collective cranium months ago, it is the most obvious bridge between this record and its skinnier, tinnier predecessor. Its robust production, bubbling synths and classic "Do-do-do" refrain mean that, like our parents and Showaddywaddy before us, we'll all be drunkenly dancing to it at the 2025 office Christmas party.

Elsewhere, potential hit singles slyly reveal themselves amongst a hectic, often dizzying battery of sonic and lyrical pleasures. The stalking, schizophrenic 'I'm Your Villain' should by rights be placed under a restraining order before getting anywhere near your ears, while the ebullient, bleary-eyed bounce of 'What You Meant' could well have the CD:UK kids looking up Wikipedia's definition of MDMA come January.

Best of all though is the imperious acoustic strum of 'Walk Away', a bittersweet rumination on an errant love affair that pitches itself somewhere between the gambolling riff of Nirvana's 'Come As You Are' and vintage 'Something Else'-era Kinks. It's a quantum leap forward as regards Franz Ferdinand's musical palette (all songs now being credited to the band as a whole) and reveals Alex Kapranos to be perhaps the most potent and articulate British lyricist of his generation. "Run to the statue with the dictionary/climb to her fingernail and leap/take an atmospheric leap" he breathlessly implores on 'Eleanor Put Your Boots On', a windswept, Beatles-esque piano/cello postcard from New York that is curiously redolent of Blur's 'The Universal', only less affected and more effecting. Improbably, the icy cold-war waltz that is 'Fade Together' could be Marlene Dietrich covering a Noel Coward/Lou Reed collaboration: "Berlin I love you/I'm starting to fade", croons Kapranos knowingly.

This is an album that looks outward upon the world Franz Ferdinand have toured pretty much relentlessly since Take Me Out, but one that takes cares to avoid self-pitying paeans to the hollowness of the Holiday Inn hotel room. Various alumni of Glasgow's arty intelligentsia return to populate several songs, and together with the striking pseudo-Soviet propaganda poster artwork, help establish thematic and personal reference points to the eponymous debut. Here, however, their tales of decadent debauchery - shoplifting from Tesco, popping pills, giving/receiving head - are painted on a far more expansive musical canvas.

Occasionally, just as you fear things may be getting a little too clever for their own good, as in the smugly self-congratulatory 'You're The Reason I'm Leaving', a reference to REM's unit-shifting stadium-filler 'Everybody Hurts' pops up to remind you that popular music can be intelligent, and intelligent music can be popular. It may not sell quite as many copies as 'Franz Ferdinand', but like The Smiths' 'Meat Is Murder' or SFA's 'Radiator', 'You Could Have It So Much Better' shows its creators to be greater than the sum of their influences whilst confidently setting up shop for the creative long haul. Gang of who?



All replies to this article. Log in to post a reply.

On 1st November 2005 at 21:58 Anonymous 4717 wrote...

This new album kicks ass. its much darker in places than the first one and has a lot more emotion. great review.


On 7th November 2005 at 18:23 Anonymous 4936 wrote...

Agreed, cracking review, top album. These boys sure ain't no flash in the pan


On 7th November 2005 at 23:12 Anonymous 3358 wrote...

Franz Ferdinand are the worst and ever to release a record. Even worse than Phixx.



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