“I’ve found a new way, baby,” sings Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos on the slashing funk-pop album opener, “Ulysses.” But has he really? Three albums in, FF are doing the same thing, more or less the same way, with the same proficiency that catapulted them to the top of the international indie heap: setting louche tales of sex and romance to ferociously catchy white-boy disco grooves. Fans of the band’s breakthrough single “Take Me Out” will find no drop-off in “No You Girls,” with its percolating Studio 54 bass line, blasts of guitar noise and rakish pickup lines. (“Flick your cigarette and then kiss me/Kiss me where your eye won’t meet me,” Kapranos drawls.) And “Ulysses,” which is about getting high out of sheer boredom, may outdo every previous Franz song for pure earwormy infectiousness.
In interviews, Franz Ferdinand have talked about toning down their guitars and adding more dance grooves on the new record. And Tonight does offer a few musical departures. “Katherine Kiss Me” dips into acoustic-folk balladeering, and the mordantly jaunty “Send Him Away” suggests the band has spent some time studying old Kinks records. “Lucid Dreams” sports a four-and-a-half-minute-long synth-pop musical coda. But Franz Ferdinand mainly stick to their small, intensely flavorful basics, packing songs with tempo changes and propulsive guitar riffs. In “Twilight Omens,” Kapranos sings, “I typed your number/Into my calculator/Where it spelled a dirty word/When you turned it upside down/You could turn my dirty world/The bright way round.” Kapranos fancies himself a dandy in the Brit-pop tradition that stretches from Ray Davies to Jarvis Cocker, but he doesn’t quite have the wit — and doesn’t offer up the depths of emotion — to pull off the act. But the band’s tenacious groove makes these reservations academic — quibbles you leave behind as you stampede to the dance floor.