Franz Ferdinand – 'Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action' album review

The indie heroes get weird on a twisted and fiercely intelligent fourth album



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Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

‘Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action’: it sounds simple, straightforward, and assured, but Franz Ferdinand’s fourth is anything but. Over the last ten years, the Glaswegian band have released an anti-love song casting the significant other as a sniper (‘Take Me Out’), name-checked Terry Wogan (‘The Dark of the Matinée’) and Mao Tse-Tung (‘Walk Away’), and retold an epic Greek poem as a big night out (‘Ulysses’) – and yet ‘Right Thoughts…’ is still the strangest and most intriguing thing they’ve done to date.

Pulling back from the clean production and electronic tendencies of their last album (‘Tonight: Franz Ferdinand’, yonks ago in 2009), on the new record Franz often sound like the kind of scratchy, post-punk garage band that they’ve almost but never quite been. On the bouncing, rickety riffs of ‘Right Action’ or the fidgety first half of ‘Stand on the Horizon’, they come across like something from the suaver end of early ’80s indie: think Josef K or The Monochrome Set. ‘Bullet’ is a jerky indie-punk song full of choppy guitar lines, halfway between Buzzcocks and The Strokes, while ‘Goodbye Lovers and Friends’ staggers and moans along, smelling faintly of Tom Waits. This is the rawest that Franz Ferdinand have ever sounded on record.

Don’t get the impression, however, that they’ve reverted or retreated into being (as lead singer Alex Kapranos self-deprecatingly called them in the first press release for ‘Right Thoughts…’) ‘some dumb band’. Franz break out of the guitar-bass-drums template in weird and wonderful ways all over the album. ‘Love Illumination’ pulls tenor saxes, handclaps and what sounds like a clavioline into the equation. ‘Stand on the Horizon’ mutates into a sweeping disco song, all hissing hi-hats, strings and Moroder-style synths. ‘Evil Eye’ matches its big, funky strut with creepy vintage organs, while a heavily-reverbed Kapranos cackles like a Hammer Horror villain.

In fact, despite a plethora of big, catchy riffs, funky basslines and earworm choruses, there aren’t any simple songs here – and that goes also for the lyrics, which live up to the high standard Kapranos set with albums one through three. ‘The Universe Expanded’, for instance, is a love song set in a contracting cosmos in which Kapranos relives an affair in reverse. It’s a headfuck – but a catchy one, and moving and funny to boot. The Pulp-like ‘Brief Encounters’ is a hilarious and sinister ode to suburban swingers’ parties. ‘Treason Animals’, meanwhile, is one of the album’s strangest, scariest songs: a crazed stream of consciousness which breaks down into a chugging middle section where mumbling disembodied chants circle menacingly around Kapranos’s isolated vocals: ‘Hey friends, I need to hear voices… Something has really, really gone wrong.’ Other highlights are ‘Love Illumination’, a psychological drama about settling down or trying for more, and ‘Fresh Strawberries’, which dramatises lyrics about credulousness and cynicism, optimism and pessimism – ‘Wouldn’t it be easy to believe?’ – with an instrumental combat between major and minor keys.

In fact, the more you listen to ‘Right Thoughts…’, the better it gets. That’s always a good sign, and although there aren’t any songs on this album as stormingly glamorous as ‘Do You Want To’ or as likely to get a festival crowd going as ‘Outsiders’, it’s just as brilliant, in its twisted, complex and fiercely intelligent way, as any album they’ve put out so far. Just one thing: let’s not wait so long for the next one, eh?

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Watch Franz Ferdinand's video for 'Love Illumination'

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