Franz Ferdinand

Warning: Do not play Better in your office unless the boss is gone and your shit's done for the day. Franz Ferdinand's follow-up to last year's acclaimed, multiplat debut is like a double shot of hard liquor -- once it kicks in, your whole outlook is deliciously skewed for the foreseeable future. This disc is at least as addictive as the first, blowing off any suggestions of the usual sophomore slump with even greater confidence than before. The fact that Better is so damned, blusteringly good is a relief and a revelation: Franz is the real deal worthy of its crown.

Jeez, I'm gushing. But stratospheric scorchers like "Evil and a Heathen" and "Fallen" so deftly blend pop bravado with wry Scot wit and a newfound, pub-rocking rawness that it's hard to stop. Unlike so many precious emo naifs and indier-than-thou auteurs, FF is a band you actually want to love. Lead throat Alex Kapranos makes as many passes at dudes as dames ("Your famous friend, I blew him before you," from the infectiously suggestive lead single "Do You Want To") and still ends up in the pages of GQ and penning a food column for the Guardian UK. With the rest of the band as his backup, he makes a tossed-off chant like "Baby, see ya later" from "I'm Your Villain" sound like an admonition and a come-on at the same time. The band settles into its status with a couple of wound-down, semisweet ballads, showing that its allure goes beyond raunchy, disco-dance beats. Better With... is Franz Ferdinand all over again, only bigger, better, and more more more.

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