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Tuning in with Thomas Conner

Franz Ferdinand, "Tonight: Franz Ferdinand" (Sony) [3.5 STARS]

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When it burst onto the U.S. music scene in 2004 with a seriously groovy self-titled debut peppered with party-starting singles such as "Take Me Out," the Scottish quartet Franz Ferdinand dwarfed the other "New Wave of New Wave" dance bands repackaging '80s sounds with modern-rock guitars for a new generation: It was smarter, sassier, sexier and much more musically ambitious than the likes of Interpol and Hot Hot Heat. Yet for its second act, "You Could Have It So Much Better" (2005), the band offered more of the same but with less energy and fewer hooks, and it was soon overshadowed by LCD Soundsystem in terms of musical invention and by the Killers in the realm of popular acclaim.

Now, after a long absence from the spotlight interrupted only by the publication of main man Alex Kapranos' amusing 2006 culinary travelogue Sound Bites: Eating on Tour with Franz Ferdinand, the band finally has made a worthy follow-up to its initial bow. The best moments on "Tonight: Franz Ferdinand" don't alter the formula much: The opening "Ulysses" is all about imagining a New Order bass line played by Bootsy Collins; "No You Girls" is one of several unapologetically retro-disco thumpers, and "What She Came For" tries to get listeners to do the robot with a long but hypnotic Krautrock coda. But the rhythms and melodies are much stronger than last time, and Kapranos' sad-sack Bryan Ferry routine is endlessly amusing.

"I typed your number into my calculator/Where it spelled a dirty word when you turned it upside down," the low-budget lothario sings in "Twilight Omens." But his come-ons come to naught: "I wrote your name upon the back of my hand/Slept upon it and I woke up with it backwards on my face."

Franz Ferdinand may not be having much luck after last call, but on the dance floor, it's got its mojo back once again.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on January 15, 2009 10:39 AM.

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