Franz Ferdinand – Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action (Domino Records)
CD / DL / LP
‘Come home, practically all is nearly forgiven’ croons Alex Kapranos at the start of title track and album opener ‘Right Thoughts’, and he’s probably not wrong. By 2009, Franz Ferdinand were already looking like a band much in need of proving themselves again, and the sluggish ‘Tonight: Franz Ferdinand’ was not the record to do that. A most poppy and glittery production probably intended on disguising the weariness that infected the record if anything served to accentuate it, and for a time the band that once brought the angular post-punk thrills of Orange Juice and Gang of Four to the top of the charts and to packed out arenas now teetered on the brink of irrelevancy. Thankfully, about thirty seconds into ‘Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action’ such narrative appears mercifully redundant; this is a record that evokes of all the intoxicating charm of their blissful first two records, and at times betters it. Clocking off after just thirty-five minutes, the dance instincts the album’s lead producer Joe Goddard leave this a starkly lean album devoid of any bloat or excess.
Lead single ‘Right Thoughts’ could appear at first glance to curiously throwaway if it wasn’t such a chiming and compulsive example of a band obviously re-energised, as stomping a piece of glam funk as ever existed. The unfeasibly infectious ‘Evil Eye’ – with a drum workout veering almost into hip-hop – and the breathless ‘Love Illumination’ are instantly more potent than anything on their last record, but not until the sublime ‘Stand on the Horizon’ is their return cemented, and it may well be one of the best things they’ve ever done. Alex Kapranos, with all the icy detachment of the Thin White Duke, gives one of his best Bryan Ferry turns as fizzing synths dissolve into a melting acapella finish. Franz Ferdinand need convince nobody that they’re capable of firing out irresistible pop burst but it’s ‘Stand on the Horizon’ and the cinematic ‘The Universe Expanded’ that provide the real depth, as with ‘Auf Achse’ or ‘Walk Away’ on their first two records. All staccato keys and Graham Coxon guitar riffs, ‘Treason! Animals’ employs a larger sonic toolbox to provide something still stylistically pure Franz Ferdinand. Similarly, ‘Brief Encounters’ is delicious; concerned not with the kind of brief encounters that involve Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard at Carnforth rail station but the seedier kind involving bored middle class couples with pampas grass in their front gardens (look it up). Indeed, the calculated sexuality of suburban swingers makes the ideal lyrical muse for Alex Kapranos, still every bit as engaging and playful lyricist as ever.
Though this record showcases a band not averse to experimentation, the usual Franz fetishes of post-punk and garage rock are still ever prevalent – but with British music now seemingly saturated by a weath of painfully earnest shoegaze, this is almost something of a novelty from a mainstream British guitar act. ‘Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action’ is an impossibly sharp record that serves not only to remind that Franz Ferdinand are more than a cut above their contemporaries but proves them as rightful victors of the Class of 2004 – that post-Strokes last hurrah of a now defunct music industry model. “Don’t play pop music” offers Kapranos at the album’s end, “you know I hate pop music” – the bloody liar.
All words by Fergal Kinney. More writing by Fergal on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.