Album: Franz Ferdinand

You Could Have It So Much Better, DOMINO
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The Independent Culture

Otherwise, there's barely any change from last year's breakthrough. The band continue to mine the same vein of brittle New Wave guitar interplay, though dumbing down somewhat for the strident stomp of the single "Do You Want To", which is irritatingly chippy and catchy in fairly equal proportions, a bit like Oasis with A-levels.

Like so many difficult second albums, You Could Have It So Much Better seems to reflect the effect of their sudden success - not in the dullard manner of The Stereophonics, with travelogue road-songs about touring, but in the sense of trying to keep their feet on the ground while retaining a firm hold on the meteor of fame to which their ambitions are attached.

The resulting strain on their character has led to the album's aforementioned coldness. Their emotional gyro-scope seems to be wobbling perilously, with songs such as "This Boy", "Evil and a Heathen" and "I'm Your Villain" eagerly contemplating the amoral indulgences afforded the newly famous, and "You're The Reason I'm Leaving", "Well That Was Easy" and "Walk Away" blithely dispensing with the stability of long-term emotional connections. "Why don't you walk away?" sings Alex Kapranos in the latter, "No buildings will fall down." While in "Well That Was Easy", he runs the gamut of responses to romantic disaffection in a few lines, his bland vacillations mocking the supposed emotional turmoil: "Come on, kill me now/ 'Cos I'm leaving you/ Well that was easy/ How I miss you now."

Song after song seems to exult in a sort of mutual antipathy, deliberately devaluing the emotional currency that, though it may not be a vital requirement of great pop music, is pretty useful if you're looking to make a deeper, more affecting connection than, say, Sparks.

A similar criticism could be levelled at Kaiser Chiefs, who have rather snatched the New Wave pop baton away from Franz Ferdinand this year; but there's an appealing good humour about the Chiefs' songs that reinforces, rather than rejects, the warmth of human connection. And, more important, there are more great hooks in the average KC track than in the whole of this album. So, yes, we could indeed have it so much better.