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Franz Ferdinand - Right Thoughts, Right... Album Cover

Franz Ferdinand - Right Thoughts, Right...

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6.0
Franz Ferdinand Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
Release Date: August 26, 2013
Record Label: Domino Records
This review was written by an AP.net staff member.
When listening through Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, the fourth full-length album from Glasgow-based throwback rockers Franz Ferdinand, it’s remarkably difficult not to let your mind wander back to 2004, to a time when these guys were setting the world—and the charts—on fire with their debut self-titled record. (There’s an ill-advised pun in that last sentence, since one of the songs on that debut record was actually called “This Fire.”) 2004 was a terrific year in general for music, my favorite year in recent memory, and one that I think saw a greater depth of classics than any other year all decade. From the tearful, communal bombast of Arcade Fire’s Funeral to the acidic Vegas hooks of the Killers’ Hot Fuss, the soaring piano balladry of Keane’s Hopes and Fears all the way to the full-length debut of a world-beating Chicago producer named Kanye West, 2004 was the arrival of seemingly dozens of artists who are still scoring huge headlines and filling arenas to this day; you'd be hard-pressed to find a year more chock full with promising debuts.

For all intents and purposes, it seemed—at the end of 2004, at least—that Franz Ferdinand were destined for a long and prosperous career as well. After all, Franz Ferdinand the album had a lot in common with Hot Fuss, from the 1980s influence to the way the bands looked and dressed, and the set’s flagship single, the unreasonably catchy “Take Me Out,” had all the markings of a classic hit that would play on radio airwaves until the end of time. Franz Ferdinand even had something that the Killers never did: mass critical acclaim. Pitchfork gave their debut album a 9.1, and the record landed on just about every “best of the year” list on the internet. Needless to say, these guys were a band to watch.

Fast forward nine years and the buzz for Franz Ferdinand’s fourth full-length record feels remarkably muted. Their second album, 2005’s You Can Have It So Much Better wasn’t the critical darling its predecessor was, but it was still a solid, fun, and versatile pop-rock record, while 2009’s Tonight: Franz Ferdinand felt like a band running out of ideas but still slinging a few solid hooks in the meantime. Something happened between record number two and record number three, though, and I don’t think the band or their image has recovered from it with record number four: no one really seems to care about Franz Ferdinand anymore. Maybe that’s because it’s been awhile since the band really lived up to the promise of that first disc, but I don’t think that can be the full explanation. After all, plenty of people have hated everything the Killers have recorded since Hot Fuss, but the band still inspires vehement passion on either side of the fence with every record they release, and their fourth album, last year’s stellar Battle Born, felt considerably more vibrant than Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action ever does.

No, the problem, I think, is that Franz Ferdinand just aren’t really trying to move forward with their music anymore. “This time, same as before,” goes the album’s pseudo title track, “Right Action,” and that pretty much sums up the record in a nutshell. As much critical abuse as the Killers have taken over the years for adding new dimensions to their sound and leaving the ‘80s vibe of Hot Fuss in the dust, I think progression is arguably what has allowed Brandon Flowers and company to hold together as a band and maintain a ridiculously loyal fanbase along the way. (When Grandland executed their “best songs of the millennium” bracket last month, they had to toss out votes because Killers fans supposedly sent a bot into the system to vote for “Mr. Brightside” tens of thousands of times.) If you’ve ever wondered what the Killers would look like today if they had made Hot Fuss four times, search no further than the Franz Ferdinand on display here. And it’s not so much that Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action models itself on Franz Ferdinand as it plays up the same tropes and influences in a remarkably less successful fashion. Make no mistake, this is the sound of a band stagnating.

There’s no “Take Me Out” here. Hell, there’s not even a “This Fire” or “Do You Want To” (though “Right Action” does blatantly attempt a similar hook to the latter on the bridge). Frontman Alex Kapranos still sounds exactly the same as he always has, and the loud, garage-rock interplay between the lead and rhythmic guitar parts still sounds as good as ever (the dirty wall of guitars on album highlight “Bullet” actually posits the song as a slightly less propulsive take on “Jacqueline,” the brilliant opening track from the band’s debut). During a distracted listen, these songs are perfectly enjoyable in an innocuous way, kind of like the tunes you wouldn’t mind hearing early in a live show before the band onstage moves onto their golden greats. “Love Illumination” is an absolute foot-tapper, while the gleefully (and borderline comically) creepy dance-rock of “Evil Eye” reminds us that Franz Ferdinand are a band that can effortlessly write fun and catchy songs without ever taking themselves too seriously.

But “not taking yourself too seriously” can be a vice just as easily as it can be a selling point, and during much of Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, that’s precisely what it proves to be. The Killers were never going to earn the “cool” designation based solely on how earnest their frontman was. Franz Ferdinand, on the other hand, earned the “cool” tag right away thanks largely to a frontman who sang like a glam rock singer twice his age and wrote quirky, catchy songs with lyrics that jumped off the page. On “Michael,” a favorite cut from Franz Ferdinand, Kapranos warbled about getting freaky and falling in love with another man on the dance floor. The lyrics were edgy and funny while somehow also managing to be a bit cringe-worthy at the same time (the hook, “Michael you're the boy with all the leather hips/Sticky hair, sticky hips, stubble on my sticky lips,” is simultaneously the best and worst couplet in the history of rock music), and the song demanded attention because you couldn’t quite tell if Kapranos was being serious or if he was just slyly winking at you from the bar.

On Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, instead of “Michael,” we get “Fresh Strawberries,” which loses the edge but keeps the cringe. “We are fresh strawberries, fresh burst of red strawberries/Ripe turning riper in the pole/We will soon be rotten, we will all be forgotten,” Kapranos croons at the beginning of the song. 'Nuff said. The rest of the lyrical content on this record isn’t much better, and the band has such a preponderance of terrible ideas to work with—particularly during the album’s second half—that even the best songs fall through the cracks. Take “Treason! Animals,” which legitimately sounds like it was written to soundtrack a Saturday morning puppet show, or “Goodbye Lovers & Friends,” a break-up song that Kapranos tries to morph into some kind of meta swansong moment for his band. “You know I hate pop music,” Kapranos remarks halfway through the latter, still trying to play the hipster nine years into a career that, more and more, seems to be following a law of diminishing returns. Franz Ferdinand will always be a great record; You Could Have It So Much Better will always be a very good record; but with Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, Franz Ferdinand have lost almost everything that made them interesting in the first place, and as a result, it’s hard to imagine many people caring when LP number five comes around in a couple more years.

6.0
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 21
08:37 AM on 09/23/13
#2
TheDemosRock
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I have to say I disagree with a lot of the assumptions made about the band's progression and about the decision to make a "back to our roots" album. I really don't know where you've drawn the idea that there was no progression between the first three, because You Could Have It... was a definite departure from the dance-heavy dance-rock sound of the self-titled and Tonight got them widely panned for its experimental and majorly divergent shift in sound.

I do agree that this album lacks punch though.
It's a good listen and it'll remain in my rotation for a while because I like to bounce around to FF, but it's not touching my AOTYs with a 10-foot pole.
09:07 AM on 09/23/13
#3
Craig Manning
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I have to say I disagree with a lot of the assumptions made about the band's progression and about the decision to make a "back to our roots" album. I really don't know where you've drawn the idea that there was no progression between the first three, because You Could Have It... was a definite departure from the dance-heavy dance-rock sound of the self-titled and Tonight got them widely panned for its experimental and majorly divergent shift in sound.

I do agree that this album lacks punch though.
It's a good listen and it'll remain in my rotation for a while because I like to bounce around to FF, but it's not touching my AOTYs with a 10-foot pole.
I didn't really mean that there was no progression with the first three, more that this album retains none of the more adventurous sounds of the last two records, but also has none of the charm of the first record. It's not so much that this is a "back to roots" album, but more that it just seems like, they've gone through nine years and made three other records, and they have almost nothing to show for it here. It feels like they are just pretending like the second and third records never happened, which is a problem for me.

Tonight
was the definite "weird" album in their catalog. I don't think You Could Have It So Much Better was that much of a leap though. It was a refinement of the sound of Franz Ferdinand, with the rock side of their sound punched up and the dance elements toned down a bit, but they're both very overt glam rock records, and they're both driven by a similar set of influences.
09:47 AM on 09/23/13
#4
Steve_JustAGuy
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Not sure if it was intentional to review it almost a month after it's release, but I like the concept of letting an album sit awhile before reviewing it.

On to the actual album, not sure how much lasting value it has. Songs like "Right Action" and "Love Illumination" are catchy for sure, but the rest of the album is ho-hum/hit or miss for me. I hope they're not just trying to make a few catchy songs just to add to a set list while putting a bunch of filler around it.
10:01 AM on 09/23/13
#5
Memphis
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Oh yeah, 2004 was great, Futures, American Idiot and everything...

Anyway. I like Right Thoughts, though I'd still say 60% is about accurate. They certainly didn't feel the need to prove anything to anyone, they just wanted to have fun and perhaps recreate the magic of their first album. And they partly succeeded. Right Thoughts is fun, nothing more, but nothing less. And I like albums like that from time to time.

And I still don't get their third album.
10:27 AM on 09/23/13
#6
Grohl
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Arctic Monkeys are the only band from that wave still making exciting music.
10:50 AM on 09/23/13
#7
contra11mundum
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Every time I hear the title track I feel like it should be played over a montage in an Ocean's movie.
01:43 PM on 09/23/13
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Phil507
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Totally wrong. This band is solid as fuck and it's criminal that they are still playing clubs/theaters in the States while The Killers are headlining arenas (who make spotty albums themselves, yet are merely a great singles act).
01:54 PM on 09/23/13
#9
Craig Manning
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Totally wrong. This band is solid as fuck and it's criminal that they are still playing clubs/theaters in the States while The Killers are headlining arenas (who make spotty albums themselves, yet are merely a great singles act).

Is there are single great song on this album?
02:02 PM on 09/23/13
Phil507
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Is there are single great song on this album?
"Love Illumination" totally kills.
02:39 PM on 09/23/13
suckitandsee
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Good writing

Bad opinions
03:14 PM on 09/23/13
heyjohnnyfive
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Is there are single great song on this album?
Bullet is greatness IMO.

I really think the album is excellent for the first 7 tracks, then it falters a bit. But still, much better than the last. Also, the packaging is really well designed.
03:21 PM on 09/23/13
Craig Manning
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Not sure if it was intentional to review it almost a month after it's release, but I like the concept of letting an album sit awhile before reviewing it.

On to the actual album, not sure how much lasting value it has. Songs like "Right Action" and "Love Illumination" are catchy for sure, but the rest of the album is ho-hum/hit or miss for me. I hope they're not just trying to make a few catchy songs just to add to a set list while putting a bunch of filler around it.

I had my name up to review it, but got busy around the release time. Was just going to skip it, but I've been thinking about that 2004 crop of debuts a lot since the Grantland poll and wanted to write about it.

"Love Illumination" totally kills.

Eh, I think it's a fun pop song, not much more. It's not going to still be a playlist staple in a decade like "Take Me Out" is.

Bullet is greatness IMO.

I really think the album is excellent for the first 7 tracks, then it falters a bit. But still, much better than the last. Also, the packaging is really well designed.

"Bullet" is my favorite song on the disc, for sure. I still think it's shy of great, but it's certainly better than something like "Treason! Animals."

I didn't like their third album at all, but at least it was something different. This one is just super boring to me.
03:40 PM on 09/23/13
fowruok
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60% is pretty accurate. Really like "Bullet", "Love Illumination", and "Right Action"; however, the rest are decent, but not great songs.

That said, they're still one of the best live bands around. Can't wait to see them next month.

Also, I thought Tonight was much better than it was received. "Ulysses", "Twilight Omens", "Bite Hard", "What She Came For", and "Lucid Dreams" are such solid songs.
04:29 PM on 09/23/13
Steve_JustAGuy
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Also, I thought Tonight was much better than it was received. "Ulysses", "Twilight Omens", "Bite Hard", "What She Came For", and "Lucid Dreams" are such solid songs.

Agreed. I even thought Tonight was better than You Can Have It... but maybe that's just me.

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