Franz Ferdinand: Tonight: Franz Ferdinand

Domino/Epic
Music½ Sound •••
Don't get me wrong: I have nothing against dance music, party tunes, or any other escapist entertainment. It has its place in the pop-culture firmament. But for Franz Ferdinand, leading lights of the third phase of Britpop, to regress to decadent juvenilia for no apparent reason other than they've become (somewhat) rich and famous is disappointing.

By their own admission, their third album is "more dance than rock," which is to say more like Duran Duran than Franz Ferdinand. And I don't mean to insult Duran Duran, because that band was a credible product of its time - whereas this abrupt shift into a near-parody of such things is far worse. Pardon me, but didn't these guys used to be a fresh-faced Glaswegian band whose mission was to rescue popular music from these very sorts of impersonal, obnoxious electronic doldrums?

In "Ulysses," the first single, Alex Kapranos salaciously whispers, "Come on, let's get HIGH!" and "Last night was WILD!," as a synthesizer assaults the ears with all the subtlety of a branding iron. (Bear in mind that this is the leadoff track, the one that's supposed to hook you.) "Turn It On," another sleazy ode to satiating baser appetites, is spiced with random blasts of electronica, repetitious chanting about sex, and, when words fail them, "yeah yeah yeah."

It doesn't stop. "No You Girls" is a banal singalong that offers this hoary bit of wisdom: "No, you girls never know / How you make a boy feel." As the band lowers the bar further on "What She Came For," the bass line sounds like a dancefloor playboy stalking his prey, while the squawking synth is straight out of "Disco Duck." Meanwhile, the lyrics cast deplorable aspersions on the fairer sex: "I got a question for you / Where'd you get your name from? / Where do you see yourself in 5 minutes' time?" The presumptive answer: on her knees, making the boys in the band happy.

Okay, I could go on, but you get the point. If it weren't for "Katherine Kiss Me" and "Send Him Away," real songs that sound like captives on this misbegotten cruise, Tonight would have warranted but a single star from this reviewer. In the grand scheme of things, it may turn out to be but a misstep on Franz Ferdinand's path. But what a godawful misstep it is.

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