“Sometimes I wish you were here….weather permitting…”
Well, the weather apparently does permit because Scotland’s Franz Ferdinand are back with their fourth full length album. The band has been plying their trade of innocuous but eminently danceable indie rock for over a decade now and have achieved some pretty massive success, most notably from the ubiquitously overplayed singles “Take Me Out and “Do You Want To”. If you’ve never heard them, well you must have been living under an FM radio-proof rock for the last ten years….and that actually sound like a pretty cool spot, I must come visit sometime and we can sternly listen to radio national together…
Er….anyways, I always felt that the band were capable of much more than merely producing radio friendly dance-floor pop for pissed yobs to glass each other to, so I tentatively pose the question: does this latest offering continue in the same safe, predictable, booty-shakin’ manner, or are we offered something a little more challenging and substantial? Well….
The record starts promisingly enough, the opening quasi-title track “Right Action” immediately gets your foot tapping and your head nodding in rhythmic approval, which is to be expected of course…. but the track possesses some really funky guitar licks and distorted Hammond organ sounds which give it a sort of early ‘Floyd meets disco kinda vibe. It’s got a crunchy garage rock intensity to it that gets you thinking that maybe this album is gonna have some real drive and adventurousness to it.
Well…yeah it does, but not in spades. They don’t ever stray too far from their pseudo-funk meets new wave sound which made them global superstars (although there are a couple of surprises)… and I guess that’s understandable.
Despite the band not breaking any new ground or discovering earth shattering new sonic possibilities, this album IS rather enjoyable! Of course it’s danceable from start to finish, but the band has seemingly matured quite a bit; there’s a newfound sophistication to the songs which tend to develop and evolve rather than just bludgeon/bore you with 120bpm tedium from start to finish.
The moods range from savage (“Bullet”) to brooding (“The Universe Expanded”) to lush, almost arena-rock (“Stand On The Horizon”) to Madness style ska (“Brief Encounters”). So there’s a lot more going on here than you might expect, given the band’s reputation for the benign and simplistic.
The addition of more prevalent keyboard/synth sounds is most welcome, as is the application of surprisingly effective multi textured vocal harmonies. These factors provide a pleasing respite and counterpoint to the pounding beats provided by drummer Paul Thomson and the twin guitar attack of Alex Kapranos & Nick McCarthy. Six string enthusiasts fear not though, the album is still very much guitar driven and there are some tasty licks and chunky riffs scattered throughout the disc.
Standout tracks are the energetic disco-garage psychedelia of the opening title cut, the harmonious pseudo-krautrock of “Love Illumination”, the pure punk attack of “Bullet” and the twangy new-wave chic of “Treason! Animals”.
Surprisingly the album clocks in at a mere 35 minutes! It doesn’t outstay its welcome whatsoever and I wish more bands would be a little more ruthless with their material. Yeah I know you can fit 74 minutes on a cd….well, just because you CAN doesn’t mean you should. An album has to work as a singular entity, never mind that it’s broken up into songs, and Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions most definitely works début à la fin.
There are a couple of weaker tracks, but given the concise and economic nature of the material, this is pretty forgivable. For the most part this is a very strong effort that’s both dance-worthy and interesting. Music for the body AND mind. Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions should see the band retain their sizeable fan base and also gain quite a few new followers along the way.