when i was compiling a list of my most-anticipated albums of the second half of 2013 (a list that now looks a lot different in my head), i mentioned that the new franz ferdinand album should be a really fun listen. that may have been a bit of an underestimation. when franz ferdinand burst onto the scene in 2004, right in the midst of a post-punk revival that was taking the world by storm, the glasgow quartet immediately contributed dance floor-ready songs with sharp lyrics and guitar work that was almost unparalleled in the genre. their self-titled debut album included the monstrous hit “take me out,” along with other fantastic cuts like “michael,” “cheating on you,” and “jacqueline.”
after a hasty second album that still managed to legitimize the band and prove that franz ferdinand wasn’t just a one-off miracle, the quartet remained silent for four years, returning in 2009 with tonight: franz ferdinand. while their third effort was again admirable, franz ferdinand still hadn’t managed to capture the pandemonium they had unleashed five years prior. another long period of silence didn’t bode well for the band, but earlier this year, alex kapranos and company announced the impending arrival of their fourth album, right thoughts, right words, right action.
the announcement of their new album was soon followed by the release of a double a-side, “right action” and “love illumination.” after listening to those two songs, it was apparent to me that franz ferdinand was rejuvenated and quite capable of creating an album that could finally contend with their debut effort. contend, that is, with the musical aspect; all of the angular two-guitar parts are there, along with the danceable pulse of the rhythm section, but alex kapranos’ lyrics fall short in comparison to the rest of the band’s catalogue.
but if you can put that aside and reconcile that kapranos probably doesn’t have another “jacqueline” or “dark of the matinee” left in him lyrically, right thoughts, right words, right action is still a pretty good record. the songs on the double a-side are as strong as ever, and with “evil eye” sandwiched in between the two on the album, franz ferdinand proves that they’re just as fun now as they were almost ten years ago. “bullet” may just be the most straight-ahead, dance-heavy song the band’s ever done, but attempts at slower songs like “stand on the horizon” only show that kapranos’ songwriting just isn’t as sharp as it once was.
this is a record that i’ll probably throw on when i’m in the mood for something upbeat and not too complex, and i’m sure some of the standout tracks will wind up on some mixtapes. but in terms of artistic cohesiveness, franz ferdinand just didn’t have it in them this time around.