The question that can’t help but come to mind when trying to evaluate Franz Ferdinand’s so-called “second album of 2009” is this: Why? Why re-release a five-month-old pseudo-remix album on its own when these versions of songs from third album Tonight: Franz Ferdinand have been kicking around as long as the album proper? Why market it as a new album when the band itself didn’t play a single new note in getting it created? Why ruin the exclusive nature of the treat that the Franz’s biggest fans got when they decided to spring for one of the multi-disc versions of the album when it was released?
Part of the answer may lie in the content of Tonight: Franz Ferdinand—namely, despite a few new twists and turns with the instrumentation, despite its description as a “concept album”, and despite the rumors of a new, dub-oriented sound from the band, Tonight still sounds remarkably like Franz Ferdinand. Or, at least, it sounds like what we think of when we think of Franz Ferdinand. It’s like looking at old photos of the first time you danced to “Take Me Out” and “Dark of the Matinée”, an experience that brings on the rush of the good times, even if you had remembered them a bit different before you saw the pictures. For all of the advance hype of new directions and new sounds, we certainly weren’t going to confuse anything on Tonight with, oh, Massive Attack.
Blood, then, was the counterpoint, as producer Danny Carey’s opportunity to go ahead and do what he likes with the songs that would eventually comprise Tonight. It gave the true fans a chance to see what kind of music the band was experimenting with, even if it wasn’t entirely reflected on the album proper. One can only surmise that this knowledge was something that the band, or the label, or the producer, or someone wanted to convey to a larger audience, hence, the release of the bonus disc as standalone.
The main problem with this release, then, is that it functions much more effectively as a companion to Tonight than as its own work. These are dub experiments that largely sound like experiments; granted, they’re experiments concocted by someone who knows what he’s doing, but they’re still experiments. The disc starts off on a promising note with a rendition of “What She Came For”, here called “Feel the Pressure”, which is completely overhauled from the deep, bassy, hip-hop groove to the vocal production which makes the song sound much more like a singular statement from Alex Kapranos than the group shoutalong of the original.
From there on out, though, there are lots of ideas but very few pieces that actually sound like songs. “Die On the Floor” impresses with a very dance-ready beat and some nifty electronics, but it doesn’t do nearly enough to justify its six-and-a-half minutes. “Katherine Hit Me”, something of a mashup of “Katherine Kiss Me” and “No You Girls”, pulls off the dub thing just fine, with lots of ghostly noises and a heavy emphasis on the bass rhythm, but it’s hard not to wish you were just listening to the aforementioned hit single rather than this shadow of an imposter. And then there’s “Feel the Envy”, a rework of “Send Him Away” languishing toward the end of the disc, which uses some nifty studio trickery to create a pressure-shifting effect in the ears of the listener, but is more interesting as a curiosity than as a repeatable piece of music.
The disc closes with the completist-bait of “Be Afraid”, a cutting-room-floor spaced-out dub version of “Dream Again” that leaves very little impression at all. Of course, what should we expect of an unreleased track from an album whose only original purpose was to exist as the companion to another album? At this point we’re talking about the toss-offs of a half-realized experiment anyway, which is exactly what the track sounds like.
Really, the only audience for Blood is the utter completist who’s going to need “Be Afraid” or the latecoming devotee who missed out on Blood as a pack-in with Tonight. It’s hard to imagine either group coming away from their purchase anything close to satisfied.
// Notes from the Road
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