By : Jordan Beck
“It’s always better on holiday / So much better on holiday / That’s why we only work when / We need the money,” Franz Ferdinand’s vocalist Alex Kapranos sang on the first track of their classic first album. Given how well that album sold, it’s unlikely that he or his bandmates are strapped for cash, but they’ve certainly been on holiday for a while – since 2009 LP “Tonight,” in fact.
As a result, their new album “Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action” has been positioned as something of a comeback LP, but its greatest strength is that it doesn’t feel like a comeback at all. The 11 songs collected on “Right Thoughts…” are so vibrant, upbeat, and catchy that they could have been released on that first album without anyone batting an eye. It’s a back-to-basics LP in the best sense of the phrase.
This sense of creative exuberance is made clear during the remarkable one-two-three punch that kicks off the album. Opener, sort-of-title track, and lead single “Right Action” might just be one of the best things this band has ever recorded, a shamelessly cheesy, completely uninhibited slice of indie disco. “Evil Eye” is a bit darker (but just as danceable), swathed in falsetto backing vocals and “Monster Mash” vibes. And “Love Illumination” is a marriage of the old and new Franz, taking their signature sound and adding a surprisingly subtle horn section to the madness.
The other songs on “Right Thoughts…” aren’t as immediately accessible as the first three but they make up for it by showcasing Franz Ferdinand’s experimental side. There’s a ‘60s psych-pop undercurrent to many of these tracks’ sunny melodies, as expressed by their heavy use of retro synth-organ sounds and multi-tracked vocals. And one song, the oddly-punctuated “Treason! Animals.,” even features a jaw harp.
But even though the tunes are breezy and light, that doesn’t mean the lyrics are equally so. In an interview with NME, Kapranos revealed that “Right Thoughts…” is largely about “the idea of the cynic’s search for optimism and the sceptic’s search for a manual,” which is as good a summary as any. There’s also a fixation on mortality throughout the album, as evidenced by “Fresh Strawberries” (sample lyric: We will soon be rotten / We will all be forgotten / Half-remembered rumors of the old”) and funeral-themed closer “Goodbye Lovers and Friends.”
This shouldn’t be taken to imply that “Right Thoughts…” is particularly depressing, however. While the themes themselves are heavy, they’re handled with the mischievousness that’s been this group’s stock in trade since day one. Take the aforementioned “Goodbye Lovers and Friends,” for example, which blends reflections on the inevitability of death with irony-drenched lines like “Don’t play pop music, no / You know I hate pop music.”
Of course, pop music is in a far different place now than it was a decade ago, and the “post-punk revival” scene that Franz Ferdinand emerged from is a thing of the past. But that doesn’t mean that “Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action” feels particularly dated. Instead, it’s a surprisingly refreshing record that’s filled to the brim with songs you’ll have stuck in your head for days. Franz Ferdinand may not be at the cutting edge of cool these days but that doesn’t mean they’re just punching the clock, either.