cd reviews POP/ROCK

Franz Ferdinand, "Tonight: Franz Ferdinand" (Epic)

Sometimes even the best parties go on too long. You know the feeling: It's 3 a.m. and you want to party a little longer, but you're tired and don't have the energy to dance the night away. That's what the latest album from Glasgow party boys Franz Ferdinand feels like.

"Tonight" is a departure for the band, and perhaps a misstep. The catchy hooks and danceable beats aren't completely gone, but the album doesn't have the bite of earlier work and especially that of its exciting self-titled debut.

Still by far the best of the bands influenced by the New Wave and post-punk movements of the '80s, Franz Ferdinand heads in a slightly different direction on "Tonight" under the guidance of producer Dan Carey. Gone is much of the razor-sharp guitar work and quirky time changes that marked the band's earliest work, replaced by sometimes chintzy-sounding keys and synths that aren't as fulfilling and sometimes seem like mere adornments. "Turn It On" labors along on a lethargic bass line, while "Live Alone" is Duran Duran on downers with a chorus that feels like a tired come-on line: "I've got a question for you/Where do you see yourself in five minutes?" The band seems to sleepwalk on "Dream Again," and the potential show-stopper "Lucid Dreams" gets lost on its way to getting interesting.


The Bird and the Bee, "Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future" (Blue Note)

The Bird and the Bee, the project of singer Inara George and producer Greg Kurstin, makes exquisite dinner-party music. That's not a slight; like any other subgenre, it has its good and its bad, its watered-down bubbly and its liquid gold.

The Bird and the Bee's second album is on the liquid gold side. Building crisp pop imbibements that can stand up to several listens is no easy task, but the Bird and the Bee has found the trick: complex melodies constructed of several simple, shiny parts, all revolving around George's breathy voice, the calling card of a nocturnal party sprite who might be cooing her songs at a flirty soiree. But she's also not afraid to command the center: "Polite Dance Song" is a showcase for Kurstin and George's sly wit. The singer is also adorably kooky: In "Diamond Dave," a perfumed mash note for David Lee Roth, she pledges her undying love for the king of the unitard.