Franz Ferdinand's second albumand its first since it did the shimmy-shake all over the world's pop chartsstarts off strong and rarely wavers, for better and worse. Like its self-titled predecessor, You Could Have It So Much Better shuffles its feet hard enough in one spot that it ends up dug in, riding a rut it seems blissfully unaware of. Luckily, the Scottish band's trench is decorated like a flashy, wiry discotheque, so while it never gets far off the ground, it has plenty of fun hanging around in one place.
To its credit, though, You Could Have It actually travels a bit further than Franz Ferdinand did, stretching its arms even as its legs remain planted. Instead of traveling a relatively flat line and poking its head out for obvious singles (that'd be "Take Me Out" and "The Dark Of The Matinee"), it's consistentlythough not as blatantlycatchy. "The Fallen" makes up for its lack of an adhesive chorus with the kind of gruff, danceable energy and funny lyrics ("What's wrong with a little destruction?") that the band didn't flirt with enough on its first disc. Conversely, when it tries too hard to sound like Franz Ferdinandi.e. on the first single, "Do You Want To"the band ends up sounding just good, when it ought to be great.
And so it goes throughout: When Franz Ferdinand pecks at its own shell, it generates songs that are at the very least interesting (the White Stripes-ish "Evil And A Heathen"), and at best, simply their best: "Eleanor Put Your Boots On" captures the history of British rock 'n' roll with piano, acoustic guitar, and the sort of classic vocal melody that plenty of indie-minded bandsincluding Franz Ferdinandseem to think is verboten. In the opposite direction, the title track sports a real sneer, not just an affected one, and it suits Franz Ferdinand's too-arch visage. But for too much of You Could Have It So Much Better, the band doesn't really change its expression. Franz Ferdinand is like the Christopher Walken of the post-punk shuffle, with about the same average of big hits and so-so misses.