Retro Swagger

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Review of 'You Could Have It So Much Better' by Franz Ferdinand

It used to be quite fashionable for bands to take an 'eclectic' approach to music - here's our punk song, this is an acoustic number, we wrote this one listening to Pink Floyd, etc. It was part of the post-grunge/post-Britpop slump. Albums were more about artists' record collections than the artists themselves.

The current crop of bands seem to have a much healthier attitude, being outward looking and musically passionate. Franz Ferdinand are one of the most successful of the new crop.

They have only recently released their second album in 18 months, having formed not long before then. They made their name in Glasgow, playing a series of guerrilla gigs, breaking into derelict buildings and turning them into temporary nightclubs.

Musically they are part of a welcome trend away from slick 1990s production towards lo-fi sounds. Their breakthrough single, 'Take Me Out', has become a calling card. It starts in a traditional indie style, building to a climax before breaking into an incredible disco stomp.

Their lyrics, while not expressly political, are acutely observant, taking in love, loss, lust and alienation - the whole caboodle. The new album, You Could Have It So Much Better, seems a conscious step on from their first - less tuneful and winsome, but musically a broader palate.

The lead-off single, 'Do You Want To', is a bit of a red herring, a tasty one though. For those who haven't heard it, it matches the disco stomp of 'Take Me Out' with words torn from a party scene, an ambiguous swirl of drunken boasts, silly flattery and bad chat-up lines.

Louder songs, like 'Do You Want To', 'Evil and a Heathen' and 'I'm Your Villain', lend themselves to the hedonistic side of Franz Ferdinand. 'I'm Your Villain' is about romantic masochism: 'We could be laughing lovers / But I think you'd prefer to be miserable instead'. It ends with the arrogant payoff, 'Babe, I'll see you later', the music swaggering off into the distance.

'Walk Away' deserves to be a single. It captures the ambiguity of a break-up. The singer tells his lover to 'walk away', convinced he will not miss them: 'The sun won't swallow the sky / Why don't you walk away / Statues will not cry'. As they get further and further, the situation changes - their world begins to fall apart and they beg them not to go.

I could go on, describing each of the songs. However, if Joy Division meeting Abba with a side order of Blur sounds good to you, try Franz Ferdinand. If you like them, move on to Sons and Daughters and Arcade Fire.