“So what you got, what you got this time?” questions Alex Kapranos on Tonight: Franz Ferdinand’s first track “Ulysses”, which uses Odysseus’ troubled journey back to Ithaca as a metaphor for being lost in a drug fuelled daze. The answer is “more of the same, actually” for despite dabbling with dub and an increased use of electronics Franz Ferdinand never strays too far from the post-punk slash indie-disco template outlined on their first two albums.
“Ulysses” with its throbbing bass, threateningly sung-spoken verses, squelching vintage Russian synthesizers and catchy “lah lah lah lah” choruses sets the recurring dream/drug theme of the album in motion. The garage rock lite of “Turn in On” and funky “No You Girls” follow highlighting Tonight’s greatest flaw, the mundane writing from Kapronos. As he proves elsewhere on the LP he’s a more capable lyricist than banalities like “You know I’d follow you to Rome, yeah” and “No you girls never know/How you make a boy feel ” would indicate.
“Bite Hard” is more of Franz’s dependable, danceable punk-pop with the added Rentals-ish moog lines adding texture to the “I may be lonelier now, but I’m happy alone. Honest”, a statement that fools no one. “What She Came For” and “Live Alone” runs with that theme and finds the group returning to the safe haven of rock and disco used since Franz’s first hit “Take Me Out” before the latter descends into a punk squall.
But it’s on the almost eight minute opus “Lucid Dreams” that both old and new elements gel best. What starts as a heady mix of electronica and hum-able pop goes off on a hypnotic trance tangent after the half way mark. “Dream Again” continues the hallucinogenic angle although this time with psychedelic pop lushness before “Katherine Kiss Me”, a gentle acoustic response to “No You Girls” and the best song you’ll hear all year with the line “You glance a ricochet from every alpha male behind me”, ends the proceedings.
There’s no doubting that Franz Ferdinand can write a killer tune — any one of the songs off the record is a potential single — but one can have too much of good thing and after a while the majority of the tracks blur into one big chorus. Tonight… seems somewhat of a missed opportunity, despite the long wait and pre-publicity indicating a new direction (including production by Dan “Hot Chip/CSS” Carey) the incorporation of other genres is largely superficial. Achtung Baby or Kid A this is not.
For what might’ve been Webcuts advises that you seek out the bonus disc and in particular “Vaguest of Feeling” a reinterpretation of “Live Alone” which veers from post-rock to dub and “Katherine Hit Me” which puts “No You Girls” through a variety of Echo Dek type effects. Turn it up loud, light up a spliff and accept Franz Ferdinand’s invitation to get high. You know you want to.