Franz Ferdinand Tonight: Franz Ferdinand (Domino)

If bands sound like colors, Franz Ferdinand has always been more or less monochromatic. Their brash brand of disco rock glimmers with the sheen of stainless steel and leather pants, and though tracks like "Eleanor Put Your Boots On" offered a vision of the band far from the nightclub, for all intents and purposes they've been a one-trick pony.

That hasn't been a huge problem before because the trick has been a treat, mostly - especially on signature singles "Take Me Out" and "Do You Want To." The thumping rhythms, Strokes-y guitar and Alex Kapranos' sassy sledgehammer vocals packed a tangible punch. Most music is formulaic, and this was a good formula.

When a band takes four years between albums, though, you expect a little retooling and experimentation. At the least, that's enough time for a group to construct a strong set of tunes that plays to their previous strengths. From the sounds of Tonight, Franz Ferdinand got caught somewhere in between, and I'm not sure how to feel about the results.

Franz Ferdinand Tonight: Franz Ferdinand (Domino)

If bands sound like colors, Franz Ferdinand has always been more or less monochromatic. Their brash brand of disco rock glimmers with the sheen of stainless steel and leather pants, and though tracks like "Eleanor Put Your Boots On" offered a vision of the band far from the nightclub, for all intents and purposes they've been a one-trick pony.

That hasn't been a huge problem before because the trick has been a treat, mostly especially on signature singles "Take Me Out" and "Do You Want To." The thumping rhythms, Strokes-y guitar and Alex Kapranos' sassy sledgehammer vocals packed a tangible punch. Most music is formulaic, and this was a good formula.

When a band takes four years between albums, though, you expect a little retooling and experimentation. At the least, that's enough time for a group to construct a strong set of tunes that plays to their previous strengths. From the sounds of Tonight, Franz Ferdinand got caught somewhere in between, and I'm not sure how to feel about the results.

"Ulysses," the lead single and first track, is also the first warning sign that Tonight won't deliver. It stomps along with the same feel the band has used for its biggest hits, but its awkward hook and lifeless verses barely indent the memory. The similar "No You Girls" carries the "Take Me Out" torch more ably, but it leaves me wondering: What's the point of a new Franz Ferdinand album?

Sure, it's all well and good when "Turn It On" and "Send Him Away" graft retro rock sensibility into the Franz framework (sock hop and 60s psych, respectively). And "Bite Hard" starts well enough as another McCartney spinoff in the vein of "Eleanor." But by the time "What She Came For" kicks in with the umpteenth gang-shouted "Take Me Out" chorus, it becomes clear that this band is going to need more than a few dinky experiments to stay relevant.

Well, relevant is relative. Most of these songs would be passable as singles, and with album rock flatlining for some time now, a group doesn't have to hold attention for more than four minutes at a time. In that sense, Franz Ferdinand is as relevant as ever.

But these songs tire me. And that's a bummer because that first self-titled LP and, to a lesser extent, follow-up You Could Have It So Much Better were stacked front to back. They could hold my attention for the better part of an hour with Kapranos' magnetic wit and the band's equally aggressive thrusts.

A quick spin through that old stuff reveals what's missing from Tonight: strong songwriting. As intriguing as it is to hear the band flirt with new directions particularly the nasty electronic breakdown on "Lucid Dreams" no makeover, no matter how extreme, would save a band that is merely going through the motions. And with this album, Franz Ferdinand has made the most half-hearted of lunges toward the spark that once powered them. It shows off a few new shades, but the whole palette glimmers so faintly that it gets lost in the glitz, glamour and trash this band used to so brightly illuminate.