NEW YORK/LONDON (Billboard) - Franz Ferdinand's 2005 album may have promised "You Could Have It So Much Better," but the sales figures begged to differ -- the band's second album failed to match the transatlantic success of its self-titled predecessor.
But as singer/guitarist Alex Kapranos and bassist Bob Hardy sit in a deserted Brooklyn cafe talking Billboard through the band's long-awaited third album, "Tonight: Franz Ferdinand" -- set for release January 27 through Epic in the United States -- it's clear that self-confidence is not a problem.
Three weeks earlier, just a few blocks away, Kapranos, Hardy, guitarist Nick McCarthy and drummer Paul Thomson ripped through a headlining set at a Diesel anniversary party, duetting with hip-hop star T.I. and playing a handful of new, electronica-influenced tunes for partygoers. Today, they're more laid-back than that bash would have suggested, reveling in the process of making music.
"The other two were very jerky records," Kapranos says. "This one is much more of a swinger."
Franz, which formed in 2001 in Glasgow, Scotland, was an instant sensation in Britain, where its 2004 debut hit No. 3 and went on to sell 1.2 million copies, according to the Official Charts Co. Stateside success followed, where "Take Me Out" became a rock radio smash and "Franz Ferdinand" sold 1.1 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
"This is one of the few British bands that have emerged in the last five years that have attained true international stature," says Laurence Bell, founder of Domino, the group's U.K. label.
But after a fast start, sales of "You Could Have It So Much Better" stalled at 480,000 in the United Kingdom and 378,000 in the States.
"The second record was really a continuation of what we were doing with the first one," Kapranos says. "There are some songs on this record that are going to surprise people. We've been talking about this idea of dirty pop -- something that has the direct melody of pop music, but (not the) sheen that you'd expect from contemporary pop."
It could have worked out rather differently, as the band originally started recording with Xenomania, the production house best known for its extremely clean pop creations with U.K. girl band Girls Aloud. But the sessions were junked, with the band instead opting for Dan Carey, who has worked with everyone from Sly & Robbie to Lily Allen. Carey encouraged the group to develop material through extended jam sessions.
The result is a funky, bass-driven and, at times, experimental record that veers from the trance-like avant-gardisms of "Lucid Dreams" to the synth-heavy "Can't Stop Feeling" and the acoustic prettiness of "Katherine Kiss Me."
Whether there's a hit on it to compare to "Take Me Out" remains to be seen. Lead single "Ulysses" will be released January 19 in the United Kingdom.
The band has been building awareness of the new songs through touring. European dates continue through November, with the band in the States for radio shows December 2-17 before touring Australia and New Zealand. Worldwide dates are planned through February 2010.