Sometimes a band needs to take stock of themselves and figure out the direction their future will take. After middling reviews and sales for their previous album, 2009’s Tonight, Franz Ferdinand took an extended break – producing other band’s albums, starting families and dotting the next four years with sporadic tours. The time away allowed Franz Ferdinand to cultivate their fourth album and keep a low profile, away from any spotlight. Front man Alex Kapranos has mentioned that the third album was over-advertised, and that the process on this fourth would be incredibly incognito – no tour blog, no constant press, no play-by-play on the creative process.
During the few festivals they attended, the band did tease their audiences with new material, but otherwise laid low until this past May when they announced their fourth album Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action which debuted August 27th in the US. I mentioned in an earlier Singles Bar that the first two singles ‘Right Action’ and ‘Love Illumination’ were good indicators for the album, reminiscent of their 2006 album You Could Have It So Much Better. While the noise is a bit flashier in RTRWRA, Franz Ferdinand has indeed maintained a sense of their original style. While Tonight saw Franz experimenting with synths and fuzz, the new album encapsulates everything the band has tried to learn and present to us over the years. The old sound lives on in tracks such as ‘Fresh Strawberries’, a song that would be at home on a mixtape with songs by Donovan or Velvet Underground. Fans of last decade’s British arm of the post-punk revival wave that included bands such as Arctic Monkeys and The Cribs will appreciate the organic sound Franz infuses into the tracks, showing off guitar riffs and warbling lyrics about swingers and jealous love.
It’s good to see the band get back to the core of their sound, as they’ve always seemed to be more about dance than straightforward rock music. ‘Evil Eye’ and ‘Bullet’ are rhythmically inventive, and the album seems to be very connected in its approach to Franz’s dance origins. Final track ‘Goodbye Lovers and Friends’ closes the album on a bittersweet moment, with Kapranos reminding us that the band is not the typical studio machine. The stoic singer warbles “I don’t play pop music, you know I hate pop music”, eliciting memories of 2004 track ‘The Dark of the Matinee’ where Kapranos complained about the swiftness of fame and the fear of becoming something he loathed in his youth. I believe the band has survived well that fine line between popularity and obscurity, and they still have the class to put out an album as enjoyable as RTRWRA.
Key tracks: Fresh Strawberries, Brief Encounters, Love Illumination