Monday, September 2, 2013

Album Review: Franz Ferdinand - Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action

Album Rating: B+
I don't really consider myself part of any specific social group, lest not defined by musical taste. Instead, I'm something of a moderate in that I listen to a bit of everything, something which gives me common ground with virtually anyone and is reflected in my somewhat eclectic circle of friends. Some of them are into rave, others meat-headed metal. Some pass their time absorbing three-hour Autechre mixes, while others refuse to accommodate anything without the safety of a guitar. Some rarely even make strides outside of The Beach Boys, but there's one act for whom we all share an affection; one who ruled our formative years and continue to soundtrack roadtrips, lunchbreaks and houseparties to this very day. It takes a great band to bring such a diverse group of people together, and make no mistake - Franz Ferdinand are a great band.

Sadly, recent times have witnessed a reduction in those who share our passion. In fact, ever since their chart-conquering, Mercury Prize-winning peak around the mid-'00s, the Glaswegian's momentum has all but ground to a halt; a dip due not so much to the quality of their music as the sheer lack of it. Surfacing after a four year wait, 2009's harshly maligned Tonight: Franz Ferdinand was dominated by talk of scrapped collaborations with mainstream writing firm Xenomania, but this masked the wider issue that Franz - and guitar music as a whole - had fallen spectacularly out of vogue in their absence. Unfortunately, the slog has only persisted, with album number four following another lengthy layoff and singer Alex Kapranos' admission he considered calling time on the band - not exactly words to rev up hopes of a victorious return. It says much for their consistency, then, that even after such turmoil the strength of Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action comes as a relief rather than any real surprise.

Much pre-release talk has been of a back-to-basics crowd-pleaser, but while the end result will have fans salivating this assessment is far from being an accurate one. Rather, the majority of Right Thoughts... not only presents a logical continuation of Tonight's synth-orientated dancefloor strut, but also strikes a far more natural balance between old and new than its slightly clunky predecessor. The production too is a big plus - the group's own mixes capturing a sharp, youthful vigour, adding punch and precision to a quartet who're pushing (and in Kapranos' case, well into) their forties.

Sound progress isn't all this record has in common with its forbearer - they also share a decidedly up-and-down trajectory, and regrettably the distinction of not every track being a corker. Its opening for one is nothing short of tremendous, the successive stomp of "Right Action," "Evil Eye" and "Love Illumination" fulfilling the need for classic Franz tracks, with each cranking proceedings up a notch with an onslaught of sensational hooks and deliriously danceable rhythms. Less familiar highlights come in the form of "Bullet" and "Treason! Animals.," whose excellence owe as much to sheer drive and momentum as they do to spiky riffs and additive choruses (although they, as ever, are in abundance), and "Stand on the Horizon," an ode to the vocalist's grandfather that's easily their most heartfelt and affecting moment to date. Elsewhere, however, things are less straightforward, with a noticeable mid-album dip preceding a curiously downtempo conclusion - a turn that's bold, if not entirely successful.

So where does this all leave Franz at such an uncertain and precarious stage in their career? Although uneven, there's more than enough winners here to keep obsessives like myself going, but for all the positive press the lack of a big hit a la "Take Me Out," "Do You Want" to or even "Ulysses" means it's unlikely to have wayward followers crawling back. Indeed, for all the outlined similarities, Right Thoughts... may well turn out to be the polar opposite of Tonight, in the sense that pre-release acclaim could peter out with the benefit of hindsight. That said, let's not rob the sheen from an album which at times shines as bright as a band in their prime, and one which if nothing else is sure to be blazing at every social gathering I attend in coming months. I, for one, won't be complaining.


Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action is out now.

Official website


1. Right Action
2. Evil Eye
3. Love Illumination
4. Stand on the Horizon
5. Fresh Strawberries
6. Bullet
7. Treason! Animals.
8. The Universe Expanded
9. Brief Encounters
10. Goodbye Lovers & Friends

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