It’s easy to hate bands after they’ve gained commercial success. What proud hipster would claim allegiance to a band after its songs have been in commercial after commercial? Or after a Web page gushed about how great the debut was? Or after the Abercrombie & Fitch crowd starts reciting the lyrics in between sips of soy lattes? It’s hard being cool these days, especially when people figure out how easy it is. In some circles, Franz Ferdinand could be more a badge of cool, but I’d like to think it’s just a quality Scottish band with the ability to write great pop songs.
On their sophomore release, You Could Have It So Much Better, Alex Kapranos and the boys show they’re all about the music and maybe a little sex and drugs (who doesn’t want to have fun?). The album is just as solid as Franz Ferdinand’s 2004 eponymous debut, and it shows that the group clearly knows its sound — maybe a little too well. Like the band’s debut, You Could Have It So Much Better rarely has a down moment — each song carries as much weight as its predecessor. The same jangly guitar, backup-vocal harmonizing and minimal breakdowns can be found all over this album, and if it makes you feel guilty for liking it, then get ready for a whole truckload of guilt.
If I were a betting man, I’d place my hard-earned cash on You Could Have It So Much Better having just as much commercial success as Franz Ferdinand. I recently heard a piece of “Do You Want To” during a football highlight. It may not be too long before we’re hearing the catchy keyboard loop, vocal harmonizing and Kapranos howling “Well, do ya, do ya, do ya wanna, wanna go, where I’ve never let you before?” everywhere we go. That may drive you crazy, but the record has twelve others for you to play over and over on your own time. “Fade Together” and “Eleanor Put Your Boots On,” with their mellow acoustic guitar, light piano and Beatles-esque attitude, are some of my favorites, but maybe they’ll sound just as obnoxious after they’re released for radio play.
On the last line of opener “The Fallen,” Kapranos mutters, “If you judge us, we’re all damned.” But it’s a little late for ifs. Franz Ferdinand has already been judged, and luckily the band members returned to prove their band’s no joke. But regardless of who praises or bashes You Could Have It So Much Better or how many times you’re subjected to these songs, take comfort in this: For a pop band, Franz Ferdinand’s music is much better than it could be.