Domino - 2005 - 41 minutes

In the British music press, the search for the next big thing is relentless. Around 24 months ago, a stylish, arty looking bunch of Scotsmen hit the spotlight, and a mega-selling debut album and a Mercury Music Prize followed in the wake of the media glare.

By then, that glare had already turned its attention to other acts, such as the three boys from Oxford named Keane that didn't even seem to need a guitar to be British indie's latest and greatest.

The first trio of songs on 'You Could Have It So Much Better' pack plenty of the energy that propelled Franz Ferdinand's self-titled debut to success.

Opener 'The Fallen' is poppy and catchy, while the two-minute 'This Boy' uses a similarly upbeat line to drive a confident tune about a bachelor that wants it all. 

Lead single 'Do You Want To' is similarly cheery, making percussive lines out of repetitive guitar chords in the same manner as the song that made the band's name, 'Take Me Out'. It's also obvious by this point that higher production values have added extra depth to the band's sound on their rawer-sounding debut.

Acoustic guitar makes its first appearance on the record in the slower, more melodic 'Walk Away', which nonetheless takes in angular electric guitar and drums as well.

Two short tracks dominated by electric guitar follow. 'Evil and a Heathen' is angrier than the bright songs that make up the rest of the album, and it's an emotion that doesn't seem to wear as well on the sharply dressed Scotsmen. 'You're the Reason I'm Leaving' is better, featuring some more inventive guitar lines.

While the woman in curious standout track 'Eleanor Put Your Boots On' is most likely to be Eleanor Friedberger, lead singer Alex Kapranos' girlfriend, it may as well be Eleanor Rigby so much does the acoustic guitar and piano-led song sound like latter-day Beatles. 'Fade Together', the only other slow offering, combines piano with more lyrical vocals than elsewhere from Kapranos.  

Franz Ferdinand's trademark jaunty, ascending guitars are otherwise firmly in evidence as the band merrily stomp and strum their way to the end of a fast-paced album that squeezes 13 tracks into just over 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, music journalists are busy poring over the potential of Arctic Monkeys who, with a debut slated for a January release, are effectively anointed the next big thing for 2006 already. However on the evidence of this fan-pleasing collection, Franz Ferdinand don't have much to fear from new competition just yet.

Bill Lehane

Tracklisting: The Fallen - Do You Want To - This Boy - I'm Your Villain - Evil and a Heathen - You're the Reason I'm Leaving - Well That Was Easy - Eleanor Put Your Boots On - What You Meant - Walk Away - You Could Have It So Much Better - Fade Together - Outsiders