It's a rare beast that brings extra talent to the mixing desk when swapping fretboards and keys for twiddling knobs, and one wonders exactly what the attraction is. A cynic might suggest that trading on your name and signing up for production duties is the one sure-fire way to guarantee a hefty pay check regardless of whether the album flies or dies. Lord knows musicians have to do something to earn a living these days, but we should remember that those most successful in crossing the frontier, such as Butch Vig or Jack White, hardly wanted for cash. Or maybe it's a misguided sense of parochial pride, a desire to nurture and mould raw talent, to protect it from the worst excesses of an industry all too likely to consume the naïve, the fresh, and the interesting.

I'd like to think it was the latter that drove Alex Kapranos to man the controls for bright young things Citizens! and it certainly wasn't hard to discern his influence all over their debut single, last years 'True Romance'. Eschewing the full-on art-rock guitar attack of early Franz Ferdinand, it nonetheless ticked all the boxes. Seductive vocals, a simple two-chord hook, and a bouncy rhythm that swelled into a full-blown disco assault saw them installed on many people's One's To Watch lists. Having claimed that he wanted to "make records that girls to dance to," Kapranos' protégés settled on the loftier "We want to reclaim pop…and make the album sound like a Greatest Hits." They certainly achieved the latter, but only in the sense that Here We Are lacks any form of narrative or coherent structure, coming across instead as a jumble of ideas lacking in vision.

It's also a brave choice of title; a far more pertinent statement would be 'What We Are' although the eleven tracks here don't really leave you with a definitive answer. Citizens! seem torn between setting their sights on the centre of the dancefloor and playing it cool and respectable. Both approaches have their merits here, although in erring on the side of caution, they fail to match the potential of that first single. Let off the leash, they sound far more confident; Reptile's pulsing groove and trebly guitars, along with the synth-bass stomp of '(I'm In Love With Your) Girlfriend' are both easy on the ear, even though they borrow stylistically from Kapranos' alma mater.

Sadly, that's about the only thing they've adopted. Whereas Franz or The Rapture employed a tongue-in-cheek playfulness, Here We Are comes across as too cold and robotic. Everything has a polished sheen and a distinct lack of warmth, which is ironic considering that Tom Burke mostly deals in love, loss, and longing. "Never let a heart get away / Never let it hesitate" pleads Burke on 'Let's Go All The Way', but it's way too sterile to truly tug at the heart strings. The best disco pop has always seduced with a knowing wink, and the emotional hardness and detachment, both in sentiment and delivery, fail to match the cheeky humour or intelligence the likes of James Murphy used so devastatingly. You'd never catch him resorting to meaningless platitudes such as "Why are we here? / Where are all the roads leading to?" yet here, they're sprinkled throughout.

It's not so much that all this is bad, just disappointing. They have potential, and there are a few rays of light peaking through the gloom. Nobody's Fool channels Foals with a neat guitar riff, the darker, more foreboding tone perfectly suited to the central refrain of "Be nobody's fool / Be nobody's friend" while 'I Wouldn't Want To' is a sweet, regretful little synth ballad, complete with breakout chorus. The strange, space-reggae of 'Know Yourself' at least demands your attention and a response, although it doesn't work nearly as well as the funk bassline Monster is built around. By the time the chorus hurtles into view, it's nearly impossible to keep your toes from tapping. It's also indicative of their main problem.

Go back to that original objective: reclaim pop. Propelled ever onwards by Mike Evan's unfussy drumming and Martyn Richmond's bass, everything else – synths, vocals, and guitars – flit in and out and around them, merely serving as embellishments and providing nothing that could be described as a hook. In thrall to rhythm, even their attempt at straightforward indie pop, 'Caroline', lacks a catchy melody. They seem too mired in seriousness to pull it all off, and in trying too hard to be sincere, they've drained the songs of all the joy the best pop should have. Whether lightening up, standing on their own two feet, or simply having more time to properly develop will cure this, I have no idea, but the sad fact is they could have it so much better.