Ever since their inception during the mid-noughties indie boom, Scotland’s Franz Ferdinand have risen to festival headliner status and segued quietly into their current relevance, whatever that is; their fourth album Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action may be the search for that pertinence. Certainly if someone were to mention Franz Ferdinand your immediate thoughts would turn to cacophonous electric guitar strums, rhythmic synthesisers, lyrics on ex lovers and ambiguous sexuality all compounded into a classy sense of purpose and proportion. What they produce on their latest LP adheres to this successful formula that has made them a household name, though hardly as triumphantly as a decade back.
The chief problem for many bands of that era has been trying to stay relevant when the music world has moved on from your defining sensibilities. Franz Ferdinand have just about clung on through their unique dynamic, whilst some bands have progressed and proved ever more important (Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys), become lost inside their own egos (Kasabian, Kings Of Leon) or dispersed wholly from relevance and popularity (The Coral, The Bravery).
On Right Thoughts… Franz attempt to extrapolate on what they have, the opening title track confirming this with the first two notes. Their stylish antics are prevalent throughout with the Lovecats-influenced ‘Evil Eye’ and ‘Love Illumination’ harking back to 2004, albeit diluted. Yet what the band simultaneously creates throughout the album’s ten tracks is a discordant search for their own place, which remains ultimately unresolved. ‘Treason! Animals’ is as far from ‘Fresh Strawberries’’ daytime theme show in terms of mood, away from the band’s standard of subtle uniformity.
The songs are classy stuff no doubt, yet they lack the punch of ‘Take Me Out’ or ‘Michael’; even a song like ‘Ulysses’ from 2009’s Tonight harks to that earlier promise, with little to no particularly imprinting moments on their fourth effort. If anything the album title itself almost evokes a concrete insecurity, which they are more than bold enough to observe as on ‘Treason! Animals’: “I’m in love with a narcissist, I’m in love with my pharmacist.” On album closer ‘Goodbye Lovers and Friends’ Alex Kapranos sings “You know I hate pop music”, his sense of suave irony still pumping strong over the ‘Breezeblocks’ beat.
The band’s musical confidence is not chipped though, with tight musicianship on tracks such as ‘Stand on the Horizon’ evoking the hazy emotion of Roxy Music and Talking Heads.
Right Thoughts… is a gradually unhinging album, presenting diluted and insecure versions of the elements that made Franz Ferdinand such a bold and exciting act in the first place. While we’ve all waited a long time for it to appear, the album shows that much zest has gone from a band once considered so crucial, though they just about claw on with a few good if unmemorable hooks.