I hate to start out a music review with a trivial bit of pet peeve, but I just can’t help myself. I really can’t stand it when bands unnecessarily put their names in the title of the album. I’m of course excluding self-titled albums; each band gets one of those, unless you’re Led Zeppelin or Peter Gabriel. It’s just too confusing. I mean, is it Rubies or Destroyer’s Rubies? Are we meant to assume to take off the name of the artist when citing the album title? Or does the apostrophe and the `s’ mean that we include it? Is it Unwind or The Rosebuds Unwind? 77 or Talking Heads: 77? It’s maddening. Thus, I was maddened by the title of the third Franz Ferdinand full-length, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand. Is that really necessary? Or, can I assume we can just call it Tonight as the cover art says “Franz Ferdinand” only once? That being said, the title is the ONLY thing disappointing about this magnificent and infectious record.
FF bassist Bob Hardy said, upon the release of the band’s sophomore album, “there’s more to life than disco-beat guitar music.” Is it then appropriate that Bob is the victim in the crime scene homage photo on the cover of Tonight? Because not only is the new album chock full, end to end, with disco-beat guitar music, but it’s some of the best disco-beat guitar music in recent memory. In 2007, Franz Ferdinand covered LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends” as a b-side to the original LCD single. That experience obviously stuck with the Glasgow foursome. There’s a great mix of dance, rock, punk and slinky production, just as would be found on a James Murphy joint. In fact, I’d dare to say that Tonight in itself is an argument for gapless playback technology as the record seems like a non-stop party. Not since the Beatles’ Abbey Road have I been so energized from one song to the next, and with the absence of ballads, there’s no time to rest.
“Ulysses,” the first single off the album, eases you in slowly on a steady bass line and jazzy drum lead, an almost early Cure-like whispery gothic secret, before the fuzzed out keyboards jar you out of the trance. This then builds into a chorus that at once recalls the dizzying pop heights of their debut while tapping into something hedonistic and a bit primal. According to the band, the songs are supposed to collectively represent music of the night, and not in a cheesy Phantom of the Opera way. Instead, each song encapsulates the thrill of the hunt, that primal and electrifying feeling of finding a member of the opposite sex. And one can tell by the combination of music and lyrics, that it’s not about everlasting love or devotion with FF. Nope, it’s about the prelude, and all about the prelude. The flirt, not the consummation. In essence, this album oozes sex appeal.
“Turn It On,” its title fitting nicely into the theme, and the later track, “Lucid Dreams” (an unbelievable eight minutes) are probably the songs most reminiscent of LCD, especially with the former’s late and throbbing chants of “Yeah Yeah Yeah,” and the building electro-punk structure and hypnotic drone of the latter. “No You Girls,” one of the standout tracks from the album, and the most likely candidate for a second single choice, brings back the sexy feel of “The Dark of the Matinee” and “Darts of Pleasure” from their smash self-titled debut. There’s a bit of Doors / Grateful Dead / Vampire Weekend influence running throughout “Send Him Away,” which might seem like it wouldn’t work, but does, although it is probably the one song that might not fit in with the rest.
Before you can relax, then comes “Bite Hard,” a Spoon-like, glam-punk stomper that will have you jerking around in your seat. Like the first song from the debut, “Jacqueline,” “Bite Hard” starts with a slow confessional intro before it kicks into high gear, and kick it does. And to be sure that it somewhat reflects T. Rex’s oeuvre, Alex Kapranos drops a few motor vehicle references. “What She Came For,” is the song that probably most represents the album as a whole. The lyrics denote the act of flirtation, even engaging in it, and then climaxes with the best punk riff FF have come up with in their career. There seems no choice but have a cigarette after. “Live Alone” is a song I can completely connect with. Kapranos sings that the only way to continue to live someone is to live separately. Amen. Just when you think you just can’t dance anymore, then comes “Can’t Stop Feeling,” a track so rooted in elementary and dance-oriented synths, bass and guitar, that you can’t stop dancing. The closing Abbey Road-esque ballad (another likeness with the album I’m most likely sacrilegiously naming) “Katherine Kiss Me” is not what you’d expect as a closer on an album like Tonight. It’s an acoustic guitar companion piece to the earlier “No You Girls,” with lyrics switched up only slightly, but with such a dramatic musical turn, that it seems more like an early Scott Walker tune than a Wire track. And, of course, there’s always something sexy about Scott Walker. It’s a song that represents the hazy morning after to the rest of the album’s late night prowl.
Rumors surrounded every aspect of the making of this album. Reports varied as to the sound. Some claimed there would be no guitars, only keyboards, I guess like a Chic or Gary Numan album. Others claimed that afro-beat would have a big influence. Either way, people wondered why there was only a year and a half between the first two FF records, and over twice that time between numbers two and three. And now, upon finally hearing the end result, the answer should be, `Who cares?’ Tonight, as I will call it from now until perpetuity, is a jolt of adrenaline, that buzz you feel after you’ve had a few and then spot that lovely thing across the room. It’s on.