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Franz Ferdinand 

You Could Have It So Much Better (Sony)

The headline on the Franz Ferdinand feature in the July 30 NME reads: "Our New Album? It's Like Nothing You've Ever Heard!" Well, no. In truth, Better sounds like plenty you've heard, either during the early '80s or in the year-plus since Franz's debut hit these shores. Strangely, though, familiarity only occasionally breeds contempt.

Franz's musical recycling policy succeeds for two reasons: the players' preternaturally spastic exuberance, and a near-complete absence of pretentiousness. "Do You Want To" is a case in point. The song's amphetamine rhythms and closing chants of "Lucky, lucky!/You're so lucky!" are undeniably laughable, but in a good way. So, too, is belter Alex Kapranos' wacky declaration "I used to lock myself in your bathroom!" amid "Well, That Was Easy," whose bouncy melody and background woo-woos leave better judgment in the dust.

Granted, every time the boys slow down, as they do on "Walk Away" and "Fade Together," the spell of stupidity is broken. But when they're racing at top speed, they nearly justify NME's hyperbole, albeit for entirely different reasons.

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