Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
Around a decade ago, the music business began the long and painful process of nailing down a new direction as illegal downloading threatened its existence. With record sales so uncertain, the only guaranteed money-spinners became live performances and, for the labels, licensing: placing songs in ads, movies, anywhere that would raise royalties and awareness.
Franz Ferdinand emerged in 2003 with the perfect noise for this new approach. The Glaswegian quartet’s angular but accessible blend of guitar rock and quirky pop proved an instant – yet enduring – hit with global audiences. Meanwhile, over the course of three albums, their propulsive riffs backed gadget commercials and video games, sport montages and reality shows. Fun for the whole family.
The only problem with such a winning formula is knowing when to rip it up and start again, to quote a famous line by Orange Juice, the 1980s band that most influenced their sound. Despite being creative, cultured souls, Alex Kaprano’s outfit had failed to progress beyond that initial blueprint. Which brings us to this, their fourth long-player, four years in the making and with some funky producers on board. A bold step into the unknown?
It’s certainly a refreshing new beginning. Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action is the sound of a band enjoying themselves enormously, throwing mischievous ideas into the mix but maintaining a festive spirit throughout. Indeed, so unreservedly bouncy is the opening track, Right Action – produced by Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard and Alexis Taylor – that it could easily be the soundtrack of a kids’ television show. And probably will.
Further on, however, cartoonish tunes turn out to be Trojan horses for adult themes. On the Talking Heads-flavoured Treason! Animals, Kapranos breezily declares that “I’m the king of the animals!” before descending into narcissistic madness. And the seemingly playful chorus of Brief Encounters is actually a knowing reference to sordid events in suburbia.
That song also features hints of retro sci-fi throughout and pleasing references crop up regularly. Evil Eye is particularly nostalgic, a pastiche of old horror-movie scores, but generally the tone resembles a subversive 1980s school disco. The eerie synths powering The Universe Expanded conjure Ultravox, while Fresh Strawberries begins with Goth-band bass before hurtling into a fabulously cheery chorus. That sums up this admirably rule-free album rather well.
“We will soon be rotten,” insists Kapranos during a more thoughtful stage of the latter song. “We will all be forgotten.” Not for a few years yet.
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