Franz Ferdinand

Raucous yet refined and exuding an air of dry-clean-only danger, Franz Ferdinand is prepackaged red meat for the indie nation -- safe, popular, and oh-so-polished. The Scottish quartet's eponymous 2004 album included swaggering come-hither manifestoes such as "Take Me Out" and "Michael" and was injected with the kind of clever lyrics and punk rock velocity that drew consistent comparisons to acts like Gang of Four. The group's sophomore release, You Could Have It So Much Better, is just as infectious -- and although it doesn't quite contain the three-minute anthemic rush of the first album, it builds on the same spiraling riffs and high-energy vocals that have become the Glaswegian lads' signature. Lead singer Alex Kapranos has an insouciant drawl reminiscent of Pulp's Jarvis Cocker, and the gloomy aplomb of "Walk Away" brings to mind another gang of silver-tongue moodsters, The Smiths. "Do You Want To"-- a sarcastic, hook-laden ditty that entails crashing an art party and receiving fellatio from strangers -- is the "Take Me Out" of the album. While the album's smattering of influences makes for a somewhat uneven listening experience, the bandmates' blend of danceable melodies, limp-wristed sex appeal, and rakish wit makes for a sound uniquely and satisfyingly their own.

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Nirmala Nataraj