Music reviews

New albums by Morissey and Franz Ferdinand reviewed

Music feature

Years Of Refusal

Over the course of a long career, Morrissey has used his lyrical gift to tackle any number of social aberrations. Since his 2004 comeback album, however, he seems in permanent conflict with the same dull objects, his own self-pity being the main offender.

There are exceptions to the rule, of course. The last two albums have opened with great Mozza protest songs, and Years Of Refusal, his latest collection, follows the tradition with ‘Something Is Squeezing My Skull’, a rollicking number that takes issue with anti-depressants. Sadly, once that’s over we’re back to the kitchen-sink drama that Mozza would have us believe is his life.

Not that we should mind – the kitchen sink is where we’ve always enjoyed Morrissey most. But if this collection is anything to go by, the irresistible, essential wit of yore is all but gone. The sharpest track here is ‘All You Need Is Me’, which, as any fan will tell you, has been available on Greatest Hits for the best part of a year. Hard times.

And what of the music? Well, it’s no secret that our Stephen is hanging around the wrong crowd again – wrong in that they refuse to try anything untoward. The chord changes are crushingly dull, and Morrissey, once the king of the unexpected, sings in all the right places. How we wish he wouldn’t. The last thing the man needs is a reunion with you know who. He needs to find a band that will hijack the studio and kick seven shades of normality out of him; shake up the payroll and seek out the perverse. Sadly, he’s been refusing for years.
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Franz Ferdinand

Tonight: Franz Ferdinand

You may have read that Tonight: Franz Ferdinand is the Scottish dance-rock outfit’s experimental third album. ‘You’ve gotta trust your instincts,’ frontman Alex Kapranos told Billboard last year, explaining the band’s decision to forgo a conventional studio in favour of an abandoned Glasgow auditorium with producer Dan Carey. And this may have worried you, since the darts of pleasure shot out by Franz Ferdinand’s first two albums were of the distinctly non-experimental variety: riffs, beats and appeals to find someone with whom to lose yourself on the dancefloor.

Fear not, for though Tonight does include more electropop noodling than the previous FF discs – ‘Twilight Omens’ rides a Pet Shop Boys-worthy synth pattern, while ‘Lucid Dreams’ stretches beyond the eight-minute mark in the throes of an old-school Giorgio Moroder fever dream – the disc mostly sticks to the blueprint fans have come to know and love. Opener ‘Ulysses’ grows from a Spoon-tight postpunk verse into a jubilant four-on-the-floor chorus, and ‘No You Girls’ features the latest in Kapranos’s long line of deliciously sly refrains (‘No, you girls never know how you make a boy feel’).

If there is a trace of Serious Third Album Syndrome here, it’s reflected in the much greater care put into the songs’ textures; check out the precisely reverbed soul-rock keys in ‘Send Him Away’ or the pitch-perfect disco bass in ‘Live Alone.’ But as any 24-hour party person knows, decorations only bolster a bash.
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