Franz Ferdinand’s self-titled debut album came out in 2004; that’s nine years ago. That’s nearly a decade. A lot of twentysomethings will be feeling really, really old right now.
Take Me Out was a barnstormer of a single, and the album it was lifted from was one of the best – if not the best – to emerge from the flood of ‘post-punk revival’ bands that made it big in the wake of The Libertines‘ explosion (and later implosion). Charismatic, spiky-edged, disco-flavoured, dark but with a sense of fun, all topped off by Alex Kapranos’ brilliant lyrics sensually detailing disaster nights out and sordid love affairs – Franz Ferdinand was one of the most exciting indie-rock debuts to come along for a while, earning the band the 2004 Mercury Music Prize.
Its quickfire follow up You Could Have It So Much Better, released the next year, was just as vital and visceral, but then… (literal) radio silence, for four years. Their eventual 2009 effort Tonight: Franz Ferdinand saw the band broaden their sound but received a mixed reception, and they disappeared again. Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action needs to deliver, then.
Opening track and lead single Right Action strikes hope into the hearts of the Franz faithful. It’s not a reversion to their signature spikiness – there are brass flourishes and even a funk feel (someone’s been listening to Chic, along with everyone else on the planet) – but its dichotomy of joyful verses and darker choruses, plus a big singalong riff, is classic Franz Ferdinand. Evil Eye is cartoon-creepy and immensely fun, in the same sort of vein as You Could Have It…’s lead single Do You Want To – it’s got a big hook that could quite easily be the theme tune to a children’s detective TV series, and swirly spaceship synth effects in the background; Love Illumination is Franz doing The Black Keys, but with more horns and some retro organ licks.
The songs on Right Thoughts are all pulling in different directions, but the album doesn’t feel fragmentary or incoherent: there’s a clear point of origin. Back in the beginning of the Noughties, Kapranos outlined the band’s one simple aim as making “music for girls to dance to”, and that comes through loud and clear in all the songs on the record. Bullet is a white-hot bundle of energy with typical confrontational, venomous Kapranos lyrics (“I’ll never get your bullet out of my head now, baby”) set to pogo-friendly dance-punk, while Treason! Animals has a guitar hook as infectious as a tropical disease. The more down-tempo and introspective-sounding tracks on the album, such as Fresh Strawberries, Brief Encounters and Goodbye Lovers And Friends, still have those quintessential driving Franz Ferdinand beats and intimate shout-along choruses.
The best thing about Franz Ferdinand has always been the way the four elements of the band – Kapranos’ odd, yelping voice, Nick McCarthy’s razorblade guitars, Paul Thomson’s frantic drums, Bob Hardy’s bouncing bass – reacted together, creating something volatile and compelling. Right Thoughts… isn’t the instant hit of adrenaline that the band’s first two records were, though; there’s a measure of thoughtfulness tempering the instinctive.
Franz Ferdinand and You Could Have It… were like debauched nights out; Tonight felt like the hangover, the band not quite functioning properly, stumbling around a little and feeling the worse for wear. With their fourth record they’ve taken an Alka-Seltzer and their brains are back in the right gear – the album is aptly titled. Franz Ferdinand have done what they didn’t quite manage on Tonight, combining their more experimental leanings with their irresistible dance-punk sound to create right thoughts, right words, right action, right album.