Last year's breakthrough British band was Franz Ferdinand, a bunch of scrappy, hyperkinetic lads from Glasgow. The group soared with a blend of jittery punk and robotic disco-pop, topped by a wily, theatrical vocalist named Alex Kapranos.
Franz Ferdinand sold 3 million copies of its debut album -- and conquered radio with the hit ''Take Me Out," in which a rejected Kapranos asked a former girlfriend to end his life. It was strange, mysterious, and incredibly danceable at the same time.
The band is back with its sophomore album, ''You Could Have It So Much Better," in stores today. It confirms that Franz Ferdinand is the band of choice for fans who crave clever melodies but have short attention spans. This band changes tempos and styles so frantically that following its vapor trail is a challenging task, though a supremely rewarding one. Just don't listen too closely to the lyrics. They're never going to make you forget Lennon and McCartney.
The new single pushing the Ferdinand juggernaut is ''Do You Want To," a dashing love song with rhythmic twists. Its message, quite smartly, is the opposite of ''Take Me Out." This time, Kapranos is full of gleeful swagger, not rejection. He sings, ''I'm going to make somebody love me/ Now I know that it's you/ You're lucky, lucky."
Several other tunes take a more cynical view of love. ''Walk Away" is a hooky breakup song with the verse, ''I love the sound of you walking away." And the track ''You're the Reason I'm Leaving" has further verbal nastiness. But here's the catch with this band: Even the negative songs sound happy. If you don't listen closely, you'd think they were about shiny, happy people. In a Rolling Stone interview, Kapranos noted that the Beatles could sing a song like ''I'm Down" and make it seem upbeat. That's Franz Ferdinand's gift in a nutshell.
Frankly, I paid too much attention to the lyrics at first. That was frustrating, because the lyrics in the CD booklet are so fraught with errors that one has to wonder if this isn't some kind of joke. Though it's not easy to know where the lyrics are headed when you have a band prone to such phrases as ''If I like cocaine, I'm racing you for organic fresh echinacea."
But then I just let the music take over -- and that's all it took. One adrenaline rush after another won me over. Kapranos and his mates -- Nick McCarthy on guitar, Bob Hardy on bass, and Paul Thompson on drums -- are sonic fiends who compress mini-rock histories into each number. The song ''I'm Your Villain" builds with a heavy bass drum, then guitars interlace like the Kinks', gang-shouted vocals lead to a snappy disco beat, a guitar solo evokes Status Quo's ''Pictures of Matchstick Men," then comes a hard-rock crescendo.
Other songs move everywhere as well: ''Evil and a Heathen" evokes Stray Cats boogie, ''You're the Reason I'm Leaving" recalls upbeat ska by the Specials and English Beat, and the lyrical ''Eleanor Put Your Boots On" has a Paul McCartney flavor.
It's too early to say if Franz Ferdinand can duplicate its earlier success, but if it doesn't, it won't be for lack of intensity.
Franz Ferdinand headlines the Orpheum Theatre Oct. 15. Tickets $35. 617-931-2000; teapartycon certs.com.