When Scottish band Franz Ferdinand emerged in 2004 with their self-titled debut, post-punk dance rock became the name of the game. The Glasgow-based quartet played it expertly a year later with You Could Have It So Much Better, which was as moody and exciting as their first record and 2009’s Tonight, which followed the men on a half-dream, half-hallucination nighttime romp.
Since the 2009 release, Alex Kapranos and his crew of lanky, blazered mates have toured and kept mostly mum about their newest record. Yet they couldn’t resist slowly adding songs from Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action to their touring repertoire. They even surfaced in a San Francisco basement one nondescript Thursday in April to play a set of old and new material. According to blogger Ian S. Port, the new songs had an “air of devious hedonism.”
A basement show is one thing. “Devious hedonism” in a cohesive record is an altogether different affair, and “affair” is precise. If the sophomore album was a cutting indictment against romance and Tonight was a bachelor’s no-strings-attached night of debauchery, then Right Thoughts is Kapranos and his buddies coming to their senses: Love is it; love is the thing! The revelation comes with a theme song,“Love Illumination,” a funky, joyous “sweet, sweet love celebration” with a ’60s-era keyboard melody that feels appropriately retro.
But retro doesn’t mean dated. Tellingly, Franz Ferdinand’s older songs would be right at home in Right Thoughts. It’s a testament to the band’s fastidiousness that every song on the new album fits favorably into the Franz Ferdinand cache. However, whereas older albums housed a few lackluster tracks (“Cheating On You” and “What You Meant” immediately come to mind), Right Thoughts leaves no room for error. Clocking in at just a little more than 35 minutes, the album’s production is tight — not a chord is wasted, and not a song falls by the wayside.
“Stand on the Horizon” is a seductive “come hither” tune, with Kapranos’ vocals rising higher as an electronic violin flaunts its notes before a supplicating bass. “Fresh Strawberries” is similarly flirtatious. Unfortunately, the quartet tires of the chase and bids adieu in a three-part breakup. “The Universe Expanded,” “Brief Encounters” and “Goodbye Lovers and Friends” are the least danceable, most aloof tracks of the record. “You can laugh as if we’re still together / But this really is the end,” Kapranos murmurs in the last song. In an album of right ideas, right lyrics and right execution, Franz Ferdinand ends too abruptly. No matter. In “Bullet,” Kapranos sings, “Never get your bullet out of my head now, baby,” and we, the listeners, will never get Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action out of ours.