Franz Ferdinand ‘Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action’ – Review

30 Aug

The music video for Franz Ferdinand’s comeback single ‘Right Action’ is extraordinary because it reminds you in three and a half minutes what you’d forgotten over the course of four long years. Namely that Franz Ferdinand are a terrific pop group. It does this in a very similar fashion to ‘Undercover of Darkness’ by The Strokes, the song that heralded their return after what felt like a lifetime away. It’s energetic and demanding. It’s inherently nostalgic and yet very current. It reminds you of the group’s strengths without sounding like a rehash. The guitars move at right angles, the hook never disappears for more than thirty seconds and the melody is just the right side of ‘Take Me Out’. The video is filled with the type of dadaist imagery that defined the band’s early music videos and it translates the song’s unshakeable enthusiasm exactingly.

In 2003 The NME infamously declared ‘this band will change your life’ and ‘Right Action is a song that could have been plucked from the evidence file of that original manifesto. The band’s own aims were slightly more modest – ‘we want to make girls dance’ – they said. The likes of ‘Take Me Out’, ‘Michael’ and ‘Do You Want To’ achieved that – in fact they’re still regularly making the ladies pull shapes at a propaganda club night near you this coming weekend. ‘Right Action’ would sound equally compelling on the dance floor. It harks back to a brief time when songs like this seriously bothered the number one slot, and it makes you wonder if Franz hadn’t dithered so long in-between albums, it would be them selling out Wembley and not The Killers. It would be them headlining Glastonbury and not Arctic Monkeys.

As if to make up for lost time, on ‘Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action’ they bash out the songs in quick-fire. The album barely passes the half hour mark and, at only ten songs long, it certainly feels dynamic, if not a bit slight. It’s almost as if the band are scared of losing the momentum they have gained with the single. The aforementioned title track is rightly positioned proudly at the start of the album, and it’s followed, almost in descending order of quality, by the most immediate songs on the album. Track two ,’Evil Eye’, is on very shaky ground lyrically (‘Yeah red ya bastard!’) but there’s no denying it’s incredibly funky hooks. ‘Love Illumination’ feels more rigid and durable in comparison, the beat sticking you to the spot, the horns serenading you with authority. ‘Stand On the horizon’ channels ‘Rip It Up’ era orange juice (It also sounds like Edwyn Collins appears on the verse though I can’t confirm this) by way of Chic. ‘Fresh Strawberries’ then picks up where the likes of ‘Walkaway’ and ‘Katherine Kiss Me’ left off, with a 60’s indebted melody and melancholic pondering about love and loss. ‘Bullet’ calls in the second side of songs; it’s a punk number that you would happily sit alongside the more ferocious material on ‘You Could Have It So Much Better’.

After this the album takes a tumble down a slow but sure slope. ‘Treason! Animals’ is catchy but sinister (not to mention more than a bit ridiculous) and nowhere near as clever as I suspect the band think it is. ‘The Universe Expanded’ on the other hand is very clever, poetic even, but lacks a memorable melody or hook. ‘Brief Encounters’ meanders when it should get straight to the point (though it has a fantastic chorus) and album finale ‘Goodbye Lovers and Friends’ is second tier Franz; not bad, just forgettable. It revolves around a series of ironic statements such as ‘I don’t like pop music’ and ‘this is the end’. It’s a rather cynical and anticlimactic way to end the album. Alex Kapronos has proven himself to be a fantastic lyracist in the past, but ‘Right Thoughts…’ doesn’t relly hold up to close scrutiny. ‘Matinee’ and ‘Darts of Pleasure’ won’t lose much sleep over these lyrics (‘The Universe Expanded’ aside) so it’s best not to think too much; just enjoy the way Alex delivers these words in his giddy Glasgow accent.

‘Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action’ is a very good album for a band in mid-career. It compares favourably with recent albums by Maximo Park, Bloc Party, The Killers, Keane, Kaiser Chief and the rest of the class of 2004. Their debut, and it’s underrated follow-up, are both stone cold classics, and it’s a compliment to say that at least three of these tracks would stand up very well on either album. The general public are a lot less receptive to guitar pop in 2013 than they were ten years ago, and unfortunatley that means that this album isn’t destined for great commercial success. But for those who still hold stock in the idea that girls need good music to dance to, well, they will find a lot to enjoy here.


One Response to “Franz Ferdinand ‘Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action’ – Review”

  1. Kate September 7, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    It does sound like Edwyn Collins doesn’t it? I can’t find anything stating this either though.

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