Sometimes you can read a great deal into a record's gestation period. Take Chinese Democracy for example. Or maybe the less said about that the better. Admittedly sometimes you can't - the half decade between Dido's Life For Rent and Safe Trip Home appears to have had little effect on the singer's mawkish AOR blueprint - but the fact that it's taken Franz Ferdinand nearly four years to follow up 2005's sophomore effort You Could Have Had It So Much Better would seemingly point to more than a disagreement over whether the studio had the right kind of sofa.
And we missed having the Glaswegian quartet around; at their breakthrough moment in 2004 they charmed the pants off us with the glorious, thumping art-rock of "Take Me Out", their gauche hybrid of post punk and glam pointing to a lineage that echoed Blur, Roxy Music and little known fellow scots Josef K. During a gap which was evidently part hiatus, part introspective quest for direction, lead singer Alex Kapranos has kept himself busy, producing The Cribs last pre-Marr record Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever, writing a food column for a British newspaper and moonlighting on guitar for Norwgian singer Annie. Whilst Franz Ferdinand's physical embodiment was turning his hand to broader horizons, the group however began to get stuck in neutral around delivering their next long player.
The first hint that the process of creating the difficult third album was lurching into self fulfillment was the benching early last year of Girls Aloud svengalis/production team Xenomania, guitarist Nick McCarthy summing up the failure to connect succinctly with the subsequent comment "We're not really a pop band". Kapranos then began talking openly of a pronounced (And modish) afrobeat influence, mirroring the critical acclaim being heaped on Vampire Weekend. Finally, Hot Chip collaborator Dan Carey was brought in to helm and the band settled into a former drug unit in Govan to finish what they'd started.
The results, despite all the press conjecture, mark a subtle departure which existing fans will barely notice. Tonight:Franz Ferdinand retains all the things which endeared themselves to us in the first flush of our relationship, majoring on the unrequited desires and pre-coital naivety of those awkward, fumbling assignations. If anything, it's the context however which has shifted. Whereas the first two albums were about angles and sleekness, the output of a group of intellectual townies who were only too pleased to let us entertain the notion we were inferior hangers on, Tonight...has much more of a louche sense of playfulness and a come one, come all spirit. Take the final couplets of "Bite Hard", on which Kapranos growls blithely "We ride together, we die together".