Franz Ferdinand Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
Hip-shaking guitar rock isn’t going anywhere, if Franz Ferdinand has anything to say about it. After the Scots’ knockout 2003 debut and solid if not slightly predictable follow-up two years later, they stepped away from the mid-’00s dance-rock trend with the weird, ambitious anti-pop of 2009’s Tonight, an album that, while underrated, yielded no big hits.
Four years later, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action finds the four-piece stuck between reclaiming the sharp, danceable indie rock of its early years while still attempting to distinguish itself from post-punk ubiquity—and the result is of varying success. It works well on snarling, sax-packed single “Love Illumination” and the sleazy, shameless disco of “Stand on the Horizon,” both glimpses of what the evolved Franz Ferdinand sounds like when they're willing to show some teeth. But more often, the result of their middle-ground stance comes off as flat and indecisive, as with the reggae shuffle of “Brief Encounters” or the unimaginative Beatles hat-tip of “Fresh Strawberries.”
It seems that the band has been so concerned with getting its sound right that the incisive, observational storytelling and clever, carnal lyrics that sets Franz apart are an afterthought on Right Action, which features such existential platitudes as “We will soon be rotten/We will all be forgotten.” The band’s self-production in the studio might ultimately be to blame; listen to the live versions of the songs on the album’s deluxe edition and the record is largely redeemed by souped-up bass and guitar, crunchy synths and some punchy ’tude on frontman Alex Kapranos’ part. As a reliably top-notch live act, the solution might be for Franz Ferdinand to spend less time fine-tuning in the studio and more time on the road, getting fresh air and bringing crowds to their knees.