Four years after You Could Have It So Much Better, the nattily-dressed, well-pronounced Franz Ferdinand returns with a more rotund sound in Tonight. The Nu New Wave sound is more emphatic as the Glaswegian boys go into dance-punk mode right at the start with Ulysses. The opening number sounds like bubbles breaking on the surface with Alex Kapranos’ intonation, “Come on let’s get high", seeping out like some strange gas.
Turn it on has the professional foot-tappers on heavy duty. This is Brit pop in a Teddy Boy zoot suit with a booming bass line. In No you girls the staccato continues, and just when we’re thinking that we might be taking a modern Modern Talking route, the laconic voice swerves and goes the other way with the command, “Kiss me/ Flick your cigarette and then kiss me/ Kiss me where your eye won’t meet me.”
You smell a dash of glam rock in the opening riffs of Send him away. But this turns into a rabbit-like Swinging Noughties ballad about the ‘other guy’. The Euro-pop feel gets in with Twilight omens, that is flipped over by the third stanza — although the ghost of the Modern Talking Synth doggedly follows even when the guitar chops take over.
Tonight is an eclectic album, one in which Franz Ferdinand seem to have taken their cuffs off and loosened their narrow black ties. And because of that enforced looseness, this is a wider album than those before.
Bite hard has a Soft Cell core inside it, and is a post-punk breeze as the vocals and keyboards coolly tell us. The kraut groove is upon us in What she came for, followed by the more dance floor-friendly art-house funk of Live alone. It’s here that I sense that there might be a formula that the boys might be using: reedy riffs, bouncy rhythm and romantic robot vocals. Which is pretty much time travelling business class to mod-ish post-punk times.
Can’t stop feeling is more of a filler than a feeler. Lucid dreams has the boys in familiar territory, a gnarly song that should be listened to with one hand on the remote control and the other clutching a tall glass of vodka. And just to drive home the point that it’s happy hours, you get Dream again, a song that sounds like the Beach Boys on peyote. And an acoustic end to a frenetic album comes with Katherine kiss me, a less grainy-voiced Leonard Cohen number about, sigh, a girl who barely knows you exist.
Tonight is a stylish album that has a bit of everything, including Franz Ferdinand in it. Which may explain why four years have done the lads from Glasgow much good to expand and contract — the two basic dance moves necessary in life regardless of what you’re dancing to.