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Franz Ferdinand

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Against my better judgment, I’ve been converted. When Franz Ferdinand released its self-titled debut last year, I bopped my head a few times to such bar-and-party staples as “Take Me Out” and “The Dark of the Matinee.” OK, maybe I shook my bum a little, too. But the band quickly blended into—and then was buried by—the angular cacophony of the yelpier, more insecure nouveau-postpunk bands that recalled treasured days spent wearing out my Pretty in Pink soundtrack: Interpol, the Futureheads, Bloc Party. And as I stood in the 106-degree heat at this year’s Austin City Limits, choking on the mighty dust cloud kicked up by thousands of frantic college kids bouncing to the title track from FF’s sophomore record, I thought to myself, Eh, and wandered off to find a brisket sandwich. Turns out that halfway between heatstroke and coughing-up-lung-mud isn’t the best place to appreciate the stubborn fluff of You Could Have It So Much Better. Whether you think their sound is genius, a guilty pleasure, or junk, the boys from Glasgow throw all they’ve got into it, and it’s tough not to appreciate their dedication. With the exception of few forays into ballads—the alt-country-meets-the-Beatles “Walk Away,” the Shins-meet-the-Beatles “Fade Together,” and the Beatles-meet-the-Beatles “Eleanor Put Your Boots On”—Franz Ferdinand’s second go-round is filled with the band’s signature hard-driving rhythm section and loose, rubbery guitars. Much has been made of the band’s popularity among such hiphoppers as Snoop Dogg and Kanye West (West reportedly referred to FF’s sound as “white crunk”), but it’s actually not all that surprising: Despite their pasty-boy posturing, the band members are innovative beatmongers. And Alex Kapranos’ smartish lyrics are usually in service of this task: The slurred “na-na-now”s at the beginning of “Well That Was Easy” foreshadow the song’s later “Kill me now/Kill me now” refrain, punctuated by Paul Thomson’s drumming. And the vocalist draws out “I’m Your Villain”’s “seriooouuus” to mirror the song’s stretched-out meter, turning on a dime to spit out “If I could laugh I’d love you/If I could smile at anything you said/We could be laughing lovers/I think you’d prefer to be miserable instead” as the thump picks up speed. Like those of most of the songs on You Could Have It So Much Better, the words order you to bugger off, even as the music dares you not to stick around and shake your bum. —Anne Marson