After four years away, Franz Ferdinand return with their fourth album, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, the follow up to 2009’s Tonight: Franz Ferdinand.
The Scottish four-piece first announced the album way back in February 2010, so the wait has been a long one. I personally liked their last album (I know a lot of people didn’t) – yes, it was slightly more produced than their first two, but it did contain a lot of decent tracks. Right Thoughts feels like a return to basics but it isn’t perhaps what the band had hoped for.
Album opener Right Action starts slowly and builds throughout, with a foot-stomping beat recurring. The lyrics are very simple and leave little to the imagination; they discuss a reuniting couple but because they are very sparse they don’t really delve into the aforementioned relationship. Perhaps they are talking about one of the band members, and don’t want to become too personal? Either way the song is good if you listen to the production and dismiss the lyrics, but that surely isn’t the point of a good music song.
This is followed up by Evil Eye, an instant standout track on the album. You may think you’ve heard the beat before as it sounds like a strange mash-up of Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Queen’s Another One Bites The Dust. The band’s trademark guitar riffs burst over this, and lead singer Alex Kapranos starts singing. This song sounds like it belongs on their previous album, but it is an awesome track and deserves multiple listens. Love Illumination is an upbeat track and it’s instantly catchy, discussing whether a relationship is real or dreamed up. This is the band getting back to their basics of their first two albums, but after eight years since You Could Have It So Much Better is it really worth it? Times have changed, the music industry has changed. Is there a place for Franz Ferdinand anymore?
Stand On The Horizon is a strange track to listen to. It starts incredibly slowly, before picking up incredibly fast. It is kind of a cross between a ballad and a (almost) dance track—an upbeat ballad. The production is polished to perfection and four tracks in it is the first song to show that the band have tried to change. It is definitely one to download. Fresh Strawberries is almost country, almost folk, but certainly nothing memorable. The band literally sing about strawberries and it begs the question why, but this song is the first to hint at an end to the band (“We will soon be rotten, we will all be forgotten”), but certainly not the last. Bullet is a jaunty affair which makes you think the previously mentioned relationship has now turned sour, but it’s nothing special.
Treason! Animals. is another song where you struggle to understand what the hell they are going on about. It sounds as if they have tried too hard and it ultimately fails to deliver much, instead it sounds like a jumbled mess. The Universe Expanded slows the album down once again with simple production and truly beautiful lyrics discussing turning back time in order to avoid a failed relationship. This is perhaps the band at their most personal and once again The Universe Expanded is a truly standout track of the album. You can hear the pain emanating from Kapranos’ voice.
Brief Encounters once again discusses the ever-present relationship recurring throughout the album, and it gives the impression that Right Thoughts is a concept album. Almost all of the songs discuss the relationship at various stages, although these stages aren’t in order and the listener has to piece it together themselves to work out what went wrong. Brief Encounters is simple and haunting, almost discussing what is (“We are bored, we are married”) and what could be (“Could it be you or could it be, this is what freedom is?”).
The album closes with Goodbye Lovers and Friends with the band making a defining statement. Kapranos opens it by stating “Don’t play pop music, you know I hate pop music” and this could perhaps explain why the band haven’t changed because they simply don’t like the music of today. You have to give them their dues there by sticking to what they know and love, even if it feels out-of-date. The song closes and so does the album with another hint at the end of the band (“We’re still together, but this really is the end”) and it leaves the listener questioning.
Right Thoughts is an album for the hardcore fans. I doubt Franz Ferdinand will gain many new followers here as the album sounds dated and doesn’t bring anything that we are now accustomed to hearing. Some people may argue that they don’t need to change, and I respect that, but the sound of the band is so different to chart music these days that Franz Ferdinand can’t really expect the album to perform well. But that’s not to say it’s a bad album. A few songs are amazing (Evil Eye, The Universe Expanded, Brief Encounters and Goodbye Loves and Friends) but they are surrounded by poorer tracks. It’s strange; half of the album is amazing and half of it isn’t and it’s hard to understand why they have done this when they had four years to perfect it. If this is the end of Franz Ferdinand then maybe it is sadly due.