In the Studio: Franz Ferdinand Returns to the Dance Floor

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Earlier this year, Franz Ferdinand offered an online preview of a new song called "Lucid Dreams" — its danceable beat and crunchy guitars suggested that the Scottish foursome's third album wouldn't wander far from their established sound. But that was a fake-out: Tonight: Franz Ferdinand is an aggressive left turn for the band, full of synths, drum machines and psychedelic production. And the eight-minute-long final version of "Lucid Dreams" is radically different from that preview, with buzzy analog keyboards, spooky background vocals and an electro-tribal groove that's half electronic, half live drums. "We took a little bit of time to evolve," says frontman Alex Kapranos, fresh from mixing the disc. The band recorded it at a leisurely pace over 18 months, mostly in a studio constructed in a rundown Glasgow building. "We'd record one song five different ways, which is where the luxury of time comes in."

Kapranos had previously declared Tonight, recorded with Lily Allen producer Dan Carey, to be a "dance album," but he'd like to retract that. "It's not so much a dance record or a rock record — to me it's a nighttime record," he says. "It captures every element of the night, from charging yourself up before you go out on the most hedonistic night of your life, to being on the dance floor, to sitting in your bed rocking yourself to sleep."

The album kicks off with the multisectioned "Ulysses," which combines a shuffling digital beat with a nod to James Joyce (like the album, the novel Ulysses chronicles a day in its protagonist's life) and the line "I'm bored/Come on, let's get high." Other tracks include the full-on disco of "Live Alone," the Byrds-play-Afro-pop of "Send Him Away" and the blazing guitar rock of "What She Came For."

Another sign of the band's ambition: two songs that mirror each other, "No You Girls Never Know" and "Katherine Kiss Me." One is brash and electric, the other wistful and acoustic, but the melodies and lyrics are nearly identical. "It's two versions of the same event," says Kapranos. "One with the sort of exaggeration with which you would tell it to your friends — and the other way, which is more vulnerable."

[From Issue 1065 — November 13, 2008]

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