Franz Ferdinand

You Could Have It So Much Better

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Opting not to fix what broke them, You Could Have It So Much Better serves up more of the stylish, angular sound that worked so well on Franz Ferdinand's debut. After years of rehearsing in abandoned Glasgow warehouses and playing in relatively obscure groups like the Yummy Fur, it's perfectly understandable why the band chose not to mess with a good thing -- and why they chose to follow up the breakthrough success of Franz Ferdinand so quickly. But, after a year and a half of near-instant acclaim and constant touring, Franz Ferdinand return with songs that just aren't as consistently good as the album that made them so successful in the first place. A lot of You Could Have It So Much Better feels like a super-stylized caricature of the band's sound, with exaggeratedly spiky guitars, brooding crooning, and punky-yet-danceable beats. This isn't an entirely bad thing: "The Fallen" begins the album with a wicked, gleeful welcome back that embraces the jaunty mischief running through most of Franz Ferdinand's best moments, while "I'm Your Villain" effortlessly nails the darkly sexy vibe they strived for on Franz Ferdinand. Meanwhile, the famous friends, arty parties, and "shocking" homoeroticism of "Do You Want To" -- which feels more like a victory lap than a comeback single -- play like knowing, tongue-in-cheek self-parody. However, too many tracks on You Could Have It So Much Better are witty and energetic in the moment but aren't especially memorable. "You're the Reason I'm Leaving," "What You Meant," "This Boy," and the oddly anti-climactic finale, "Outsiders," are Franz-lite -- not at all bad, but not as good as even their early B-sides and certainly not up to the level of "Take Me Out." What helps save the album from being completely predictable are slower moments like the pretty, jangly "Walk Away" and atmospheric, piano-driven songs such as "Fade Together" (which really should've been the final track). Best of all is "Eleanor Put Your Boots On," a gorgeous, Beatlesque ballad that suggests that if Franz Ferdinand have songs this good in them, they're selling themselves, and their fans, short with most of the songs here (you could have it so much better, indeed). Not so much a sophomore slump as a rushed follow-up, You Could Have It So Much Better probably would've been better if Franz Ferdinand had waited until they had a batch of songs as consistent as their first album, but as it stands, it's still pretty good.

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