VINE VOICETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 30 January 2009
We experience music differently these days. Songs are first heard coming from speakers, tinny ones designed not to reproduce the full spectrum dominance of sound, but an approximatation, an imitation of sound, tiny white ear buds of computers. After weeks of hearing "Ulysses", the albums premiere single and starting track, from televisions and sandwich shop radios, it made a pleasant surprise to be struck with the warm and rich sound of the production.
Unlike many people, Franz Ferdinand seem to value sonic clarity over volume dominance. And whilst "Tonight" is loud, it's only loud in the right places. "Ulyssess", like most of the rest of album, is dripping in melodies, choruses, effective and interesting rhythms (that never bore), and the opening triumvate (including "Turn It On" and "No You Girls"), may make you think that the band have evolved barely since 2004, the next one, "Send Him Away" shifts gears with a semi-reggae set of drum rolls, a high end bass, and angular guitar that sounds like a somewhat angry, stuttering "White Man In Hammersmith Palais". Add to this the delibrately dated - and one would therefire say classic, timeless keyboard sounds reminiscent of late era Abba in "Twilight Omens", and you have something that sounds very much like Franz Ferdinand, Jim, but not as you know it.
Three and a half years is a long time in pop music. In three and a half years, The Beatles went from "Love Me Do" to "Marharashi's Chanting Family" (or whatever it was called), and Radiohead went from "Pablo Honey" to "OK Computer". Franz haven't quite moved that far, but it's definitely a step beyond what they did before, an evolution, still memorable at the first listen ("What She Came For" is unforgettable), shifting tempos and styles betyween songs and inside songs in a way that is both fluid, natural, and surprising : "Live Alone" sounds like Blondie, Kraftwerk, Human League, whilst also sounding very 2009. The sound is classic, timely yet timeless, lyrically it is minimal, vague, and economical : about nothing, something, and anything at the same time. In some ways, the words allow you to project onto the songs whatever you want them to mean : but also quite clear. That's the beauty of language, and Franz are literate and have the benefit of historical awareness, from their name down.
"Lucid Dreams" is probably the album stand out, as it progresses as a strong, weighty track, before moving to the left with an instrumental jam reminiscent of Electronic's latter-period that is like a modern day version of the type of acid/techno/house buildups and breakdowns, albeit played on 'traditional instruments'. With this as the final full on band song, the closing two songs - "Dream Again" and "Katherine Kiss Me", are understated, gentle explorations that hint at the type of future that Franz Ferdinand could have, plucking out heartfelt moments with power. That said, "Tonight" is no radical reinvention nor a tired retread of the past, but the next step on an interesting journey.
The Special Edition has 40 minutes of remixes : most of which are recognisably Franz and avoid the usual feeling of modern remixes where a brief fragment of the original is shoe-horned in clumsily ; these are interesting and worthy reinterpretations you will be returning to a few times.
For now, and maybe forever, Franz Ferdinand will never seemingly produce an album that rips away the artifice of civilisation, and repression, to expose the raw heart and hurt of emotion.. but they are getting there and the point of the journey is not to arrive, after all.