Sticking to the Status Quo
The Scottish lads of Glasgow’s Franz Ferdinand mastered the art of the irresistibly catchy dance-rock song with their first three albums: in 2004, the single from their self-titled debut, “Take Me Out,” played nonstop on radios everywhere. And “Do You Want To,” from the band’s 2005 sophomore album You Could Have It So Much Better, was a similarly jive-worthy hit. But after the success of these albums, Tonight (2009) didn’t quite reach the same level of hype. Right Thoughts continues this trend: it’s a perfectly enjoyable, danceable record, but it doesn’t have the kind of sparkly magnetism or growth one might expect from the fourth album of such a successful band.
The standout track is the eponymous opener— like any Franz Ferdinand single, it’s a hooky anthem. Trebly guitars playing light, staccato chords are buoyed by a rolling, jaunt bass melody. A touch of horns in the chorus cement the song’s allure. While it doesn’t cover any new ground, other tracks make tentative overtures towards experimentation: the slick “Evil Eye” uses slick synths and a distinctive stilted beat for a kind of dark voodoo-jazz sound, and “Love Illumination” combines driving percussion, a rocking guitar riff worthy of any great classic rock band, cascading horns in the chorus, and bright retro synths. The band also reveals a tendency towards a retro sound on the optimistic “Fresh Strawberries,” a song that takes the reverbed-out treble riffs of The Beatles and douses them with a dose of modern-day effects.
Right Thoughts even veers a bit toward intimations of morality. On “Stand on the Horizon,” frontman Alex Kapranos sings, “How can I tell you I was wrong? / when I am the proudest man even born,” in a rare moment of vulnerability. And even though it turns into a disco-rock song, with a pirouetting, sidestepping bass and the band’s signature high-pitched guitars, the song’s bridge brings in synths and even some strings, all blended well together in just the right amounts. But, however cheery “Fresh Strawberries” may be, Franz Ferdinand delves into a darker place on “The Universe Expanded” and “Brief Encounters,” both making use of eerie, discordant effects, low techno pulses, and looping futuristic synths. This dystopian turn culminates in the slinking beat of “Goodbye Lovers & Friends,” the album’s hodgepodge, misanthropic finale. “I hope you didn’t brings flowers / I hope you didn’t write a poem,” Kapranos deadpans, “But this really is the end.”
Hopefully (probably) this isn’t the end of Franz Ferdinand, but maybe it’s a different kind of end—simply a clever way to close the record, or perhaps the end of an era. The band have perfected slick, seductive dance-rock, but some day they’ll have to move on from the dark, sticky dance floors and try something new. But if you’re not quite ready to see them move on, check out the deluxe version of the album, which offers an enticing selection of thirteen extra live tracks, including old favorites like “Ulysses,” “No You Girls” and “Do You Want To.”