It certainly doesn’t feel like a decade has passed since Scottish indie rockers Franz Ferdinand conquered the world with their inescapable breakthrough single, “Take Me Out”. At the time, the band’s sound — a potent mix of danceable post-punk informed by the Closer-era of Joy Division and Gang of Four’s jagged jangle — was a refreshing oddity in a sea of more predictable fare. Their 2005 followup, You Could Have It So Much Better, circumvented the dreaded sophomore fallout, however, the creative tank went dry by the end of 2009’s pseudo-conceptual Tonight: Franz Ferdinand. According to frontman Alex Kapranos, the band considered packing it in following the fatigue of touring Tonight…, seemingly compounded by the stress of the dust following the group’s initial meteoric rise. Instead, Kapranos and Co. decided to do the exact opposite and record the most Franz Ferdinand-y record Franz Ferdinand has recorded since, well, Franz Ferdinand.
Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action retains all of the trappings of the band’s debut: Every chorus is armed with a barbed hook that gleams brightly before sinking deeply into your brain, the drums are reliably succinct and grooving, and Kapranos renders his lyrics with just enough clever panache and wit to function on the same level as his post-Bowie crooning. The majority of the album’s 10 tracks are tidily packaged dance motivationals that stay well beneath the five-minute mark and wear the band’s influences like a freshly pressed Oxford.
The title track that kicks off the affair grooves with the distinct authority of the British Isles prior to 1984. The song features gang vocals and funky guitar stabs that ape The Clash at times, but with an overall animation that puts it right up there with anything from Franz Ferdinand’s lauded past. In fact, given the right circumstances, there’s no reason this track couldn’t have enjoyed the same success as “Take Me Out”. The next three tracks to follow revel in the upbeat romps that, over the years, have become Franz Ferdinand’s bread and butter, all of which slavishly function off dance-worthy grooves and jumpy, upbeat guitars. New textures, however, include some rather Madness-inspired saxophone (“Love Illumination”) and the disco-stomping synth strings (“Stand on the Horizon”).
If side A’s purpose is to serve as an affirmation that Franz Ferdinand has retained its ability to pen the perfect three-minute dance banger, side B is where the group displays the depth it has gained over a four-year hiatus. “Fresh Strawberries” — with its sweeping and wispy choruses and airy verses — provides just enough breathing room before the throbbing dance pulse returns on “Bullet”, a track that could pass as a lost Buzzcock’s single. The tracks that close out the album are a decidedly more dynamic collection than its opening salvos and showoff a more nuanced side of the band’s deceptively simple writing. There’s a thread of vintage psychedelia that ties the final ride together, hinting at a very interesting direction for Franz Ferdinand in the future.
Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action is difficult to characterize as a progression for Franz Ferdinand. It’s a tap on the shoulder, a reminder, or a nostalgic look back that this collective works best at providing kitschy, alternative dance anthems for millennials hellbent on shaking it to something more organic. What are you waiting for?
Essential Tracks: “Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action”, “Bullet”, and “The Universe Expanded”