Two years after the release of 2009’s Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, the Glasgow band went on hiatus with no definite plans of regrouping. The band was burned out, weary from nonstop touring and jaded by an album that was both a critical and commercial disappointment. It took a lot of soul searching to determine whether there would be another Franz Ferdinand album and, if so, what exactly a new Franz Ferdinand album would sound like.
Tonight displayed a stylistic shift for Franz Ferdinand. In the time since their 2004 eponymous debut, the band had gone from having a unique sound to being copied by countless European bands. To stand out, Franz Ferdinand evolved. Synthesizers and bass took to the forefront, overshadowing the guitars. Bassist Bob Hardy famously remarked that “there’s more to life than disco-beat guitar music.” Though the album boasts several standout tracks, the result was an LP that is neither as fun nor interesting as Franz Ferdinand’s previous efforts.
Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action returns to the formula that made Franz Ferdinand’s first two albums so great: danceable disco beats, fat and jangly guitar riffs, and catchy sing-along choruses. Tracks like the herky-jerky “Love Illumination” would feel right at home on Franz Ferdinand.
This is far from a paint-by-numbers recreation of their debut effort, though. “Brief Encounters” features a slow Caribbean bass groove as frontman Alex Kapranos croons about a swingers’ party (“car keys, choose your keys”). Though the guitars are sparse in “Evil Eye,” the bouncing R&B track also happens to be their catchiest song since “Take Me Out.”
Closing out the album is the band’s most ambitious track, “Goodbye Lovers and Friends,” which features syncopated beats, multiple sonic shifts, foreboding guitars, and even a sitar solo. Yes, a sitar solo in a Franz Ferdinand song; deal with it. Unlike with Tonight, however, even during Right Thoughts’ most experimental moments, the band never takes itself too seriously. “Don’t play pop music; you know I hate pop music,” Kapranos sings on the closing track, perhaps referencing the popular reaction to their third album.
“You can laugh like we’re still together but this really is the end,” he sings as Right Thoughts comes to an abrupt end. It’s an ominous send-off for an album that was almost never recorded. Like with their last effort, this album will likely be seen as a disappointment, but that’s a testament to how high Franz Ferdinand’s debut set the bar. While the album doesn’t live up to that high level, it is a return to the fun, hip-shaking dance-rock that the band does better than anyone. Hopefully this isn’t the end.