Measurably more relaxed than their debut, FRANZ FERDINAND's You Could Have It So Much Better (Domino) is also bigger, beefier, and more authoritative. "Do You Want To" and "Walk Away" flit past the kind of gargantuan hooks that a lesser power-pop band could build a whole career on and head straight for even catchier bits; their dance funk, once charming in its well-intentioned klutziness, no longer feels mechanical. There's no blast of bi curiosity on the new disc as lip smacking as the debut's "Michael," but they've integrated their swishy affinities more fully into their overall sensibility now. And what a resilient little sensibility it is--only Fiona Apple sang as many jaunty yet heartfelt breakup songs in 2005 as Alex Kapranos, and while she cuts deeper, he bounces back quicker. Every arty "pop" band to fluke its way out of those quotation marks and into genuine popularity should sidestep the style-versus-substance debate so insouciantly.
With their second album, The New Fellas (Wichita), Yorkshire's CRIBS are hitting their stride--a gait akin both to FF's carefree swagger and to the Libertines' careless stagger. Their laments are typical of a band floating between its local scene and larger fame, and they might feel petty if Ryan Jarman could summon up the jaded sneer a line like "It's cool to be an outsider" implies. Instead he sounds like his feelings are genuinely hurt when industry tools and trendy girls snub him. "Hey Scenesters!" blasts past its fashionista-baiting on the strength of its knotty riff and naive energy, while "It Was Only Love" charts the intersection of affection and affectation among small-time rockers as only a true scenester could. Death Cab for Cutie headlines, Franz Ferdinand plays second, and the Cribs open. Wed 4/19, 6:30 PM, Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence, 312-666-6667 or 312-559-1212, sold out. All ages.