You probably first heard of the Glasgow-based indie rock band Franz Ferdinand about a decade ago, when their single “Take Me Out” hit number three on the UK charts, and their eponymous debut album went platinum. That album featured three top-10 singles, and introduced the world to the band’s unique sound, which is at the intersection of dance, disco, and rock.
You couldn't be blamed for losing track of Franz Ferdinand in the intervening years, so here’s a quick rundown. The band’s second album, You Could Have It So Much Better, came out in 2005, and also went platinum in the UK. Their third album, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, received mixed reviews when it was released in 2009; while it was largely well-received, it was also criticized for bordering on histrionic. Ultimately, Tonight failed to garner the same popular response as the band's first two albums.
Franz Ferdinand’s latest album, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, was released in stores yesterday, and can be streamed in full via NPR and Spotify. The question is whether the album's opening declaration — "Come home, practically all is nearly forgiven / Right thoughts, right words, right action" — marks a renewed call to purpose, or simply articulates the sentiment of a band that's going through the right motions.
Right Thoughts, Right Words, Rights Action is instantly recognizable as Franz Ferdinand, with its bubbling formula of jagged guitar rhythms, sharp synths, and mid-tempo disco kicks. If anything, the bouncy songs and tight sound can be faulted for being a little too poppy. As NME's Matthew Horton put it, the band's motto seems to be, “Don't bore us, get to the chorus”; he notes that the opening track, "Right Action," takes only 23 seconds to get there.
Despite its bright pop sensibilities, Right Thoughts lacks an obvious, break-out single. While the title track is pumpy, it's repetitive, and its hook fails to truly catch. As the Guardian's Kitty Empire puts it, "Ever since the sniper took aim in the lyrics of 'Take Me Out,' this Scottish band have been fixated on the most taut vector between two points." That fixation may not let individual tracks stand apart, even if the album as a whole is enjoyable, and lead singer Alex Kapranos' self-deprecating, tongue-in-check lyrics add to the twisted party ("You know, I hate pop music," Kapranos declares in the song "Goodbye Lovers and Friends").
Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action seems like a critical success, although it's unclear if it will connect with fans. Personally, it would be easier for me to be more critical of the album if I could stop dancing do it.