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You Could Have It So Much Better
1. Fallen (3:42)
2. Do You Want To (3:35)
3. This Boy (2:21)
4. Walk Away (3:36)
5. Evil and a Heathen (2:05)
6. You're the Reason I'm Leaving (2:47)
7. Eleanor Put Your Boots On (2:49)
8. Well That Was Easy (3:02)
9. What You Meant (3:24)
10. I'm Your Villain (4:03)
11. You Could Have It So Much Better (2:41)
12. Fade Together (3:03)
13. Outsiders (4:02)
Franz Ferdinand is both helped and hurt by their many descendents, affiliates and rivals. Like The White Stripes before them, they have made the seemingly sudden leap from indie cult obscurity to mainstream success and, subsequently, have seen their "signature sound" become much less distinct in an industry that loves a good ape. While at least one of Franz's offspring is proving to be a more compelling band (Bloc Party), the majority would hock their best instruments in exchange for writing a single riff as sharp as the ones that litter You Could Have It So Much Better.
These hooks, though, don't translate into obviously huge singles, which sets You Could Have It So Much Better apart from its self-titled predecessor, for better and for worse. The Scotsmen remain a good-time band first and foremost, drunk on disco beats and dance-punk, and they deliver those materials solidly if not spectacularly. It's an easy (and safe) enough album to throw on at a house party to keep the guests moving and the beer flowing, but it lacks the forward-thinking inspiration that it would take to deserve a spot among the best of their contemporaries. They may have mastered their genre, but they have yet to transcend it.
The central worry was that Franz would play the Strokes card -- which is to say, play the same card repeatedly (and have it be about a six of clubs). Although there is some wheel spinning around the album's middle, those fears are put to rest. Frontman Alex Kapranos and his mates branch into balladry (to rather pleasant effect, really) and seem to increasingly take their cues from an older, goldier age. "Do You Want To," for instance, is a tightly produced merger of the art-rock of their debut and the head-bobbing charisma of early Beatles. Plus, Kapranos has clearly blossomed into a full-fledged rock star, supremely confident but not off-putting. That likeability translates well to disc, and the band is very well served by it. While the many "la la la"-style vocal harmonies can be forced, Kapranos is in fine form throughout on the lead vocal, while also showcasing an improvement on the lyric sheet. Staying power? This album doesn't have it, but this band very well could.
- Adam McKibbin, The Red Alert