Franz Ferdinand's eponymous debut CD made it okay for hipsters with expertly disheveled hair to dance again. But the Scottish four-piece has altered its groove theory some since then.
The band's sophomore album, "You Could Have It So Much Better," still features plenty of "music that girls can dance to," as per the mission statement the Franzie boys have often shared with the press. The first single, "Do You Want To," for instance, is a euphoric blend of angular guitars, sharp hooks, sweetly harmonized choruses and a hyper-infectious beat that bounces atop a fat bass line -- pretty much the same delightful disco-punk formula that made Franz Ferdinand one of the pop-music breakthroughs of 2004.
"Well That Was Easy," among other new tracks, also mines familiar-for-Franz territory, cranking up the BPMs and adding some crafty tempo changes but otherwise using the same, basic danceable post-punk template.
But "You Could Have It So Much Better" isn't just "Franz Ferdinand II."
The art-school band's debut suggested the Talking Heads, Blur and the Pet Shop Boys comparing their acidic notes on romance and then writing a smart, wry guilty pleasure of an album about their findings. "You Could Have It So Much Better," though, shows Franz Ferdinand expanding its worldview, both sonically and lyrically (leaving aside the caustic title track).
The evolution is evident straight away. The album opens with "The Fallen," a sophisticated, hard-driving standout on which lead singer Alex Kapranos riffs on politics and spirituality ("The fallen are the virtuous among us / Walk among us / Oh, if you judge us / We're all damned," he sings) before guitarist Nick McCarthy spikes the proceedings with some swirling psychedelic flourishes.
Of course, the very next track -- the aforementioned "Do You Want To" -- suggests that some of the relationship songs on the new album are the same as they ever were. Both in its construction and conceit, "Do You Want To" comes across as the sequel to "Take Me Out," the Franz single that became a colossal MTV and rock-radio hit last year and made way for a new wave of backward-looking bands like the Killers and Interpol. But still.
While it's every bit as derivative as its predecessor, the new album grows the list of influences and spends much more time mining the work of the Beatles. The piano ballad "Eleanor Put Your Boots On," for one, might be mistaken for a Paul McCartney/"Eleanor Rigby" homage if not for the fact that Kapranos is dating an Eleanor himself. (Namely, the Fiery Furnaces frontwoman, Eleanor Friedberger.) The album's penultimate track, the romantic ballad "Fade Together," is as unabashedly Beatlesque a new song as you'll hear anymore.
At least Franz Ferdinand, which also owes a considerable debt to the likes of David Bowie, Roxy Music and even Gang of Four and Dick Dale, apes some of the best. If that's not worth dancing about -- and to -- then what is?