Real-Time Review: Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action (Franz Ferdinand)
Right Action: This’ll be the lead single, then? Yeah, though so. Typically witty, synthy, poppy Franz album opener. Sounds like the demon baby of The Fallen and Outsiders, respectively the first and last tracks of their second album. Pretty average, if destined to turn up in at least seventy adverts over the next year.
Evil Eye: I get how Franz are trying to back off from the uber-fun ditties about teenage infatuation, but is this really the way to do it? Lyrically as subtle as a kick in the nads, it’s irritatingly catchy and you can sort of hear what they were going for in the chorus. Sounds far too much like background music for a movie I’d never watch.
Love Illumination: A brilliant handful of riffs is hastily gummed together in what turned out to be the most re-listenable of all this album’s singles. So far, the album sounds distressingly like they’re phoning it in; energy-wise, it’s just not got the vitriol or sleaze it’s predessecors ha-wait, did he just use the word “avaricide” in a pop song? Yeah, I love them again. Entertaining if stilted solo too.
Stand on the Horizon: Aaaah, a reminder that I could listen to Alex Kapranos’ lovely voice singing his lovely words for the rest of my life. Growing from a slightly cringey slow open into spiky layers of guitar, it’s got a bunch of great harmonies, vocal hooks and an utterly indefensible synthesizer bridge which is the best thing on the album so far.
Fresh Strawberries: Finally, the Franz staple: bittersweet love-pop. Get in. Runs a bit like a bouncier version of the last track, with the gentle open, but lands much more on the side of melancholy and curious Englishness for a band made up of four Scots. Moody guitar solo stops in being too cheesy-though I must comment at this point that this album hasn’t had the lyrical balls or strength that’s one of the reasons I like Franz so much. What happened to using the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand as a metaphor for a shy dude trying to land a date (Take Me Out)? Grumble.
Bullet: This immediately reminded me of the post-punk and new wave stuff my parents showed me when I was growing up; the heady, almost frantic guitar riff, sprinting vocal delivery and instantly memorable chorus. Silly, fun stuff.
Treason! Animals: Even though the title sounds like a rejected Muse album title (is that an insult or not? I have no idea), the song delivers on the attitude front. Suitably pretentious and built around an awesome build-up bridge, Alex Kapranos once again sells this with ease. Definitely one of the better album tracks they’ve come up with in their ten year run, it’s exceptionally strange and vaguely depressing-two key characteristics of any great indie track.
The Universe Expanded: Okay, Muse MUST have an album with this title, right? Surely? Luckily this thought distracted me from this dull, “atmospheric” track that has no excuse for how long it takes to get going and how uninspiring it is when it does. NEXT.
Brief Encounters: Sounds really, really like a mish-mash of every other song they’ve ever done. While not necessarily a bad thing, it has a slightly lolloping pace, like a rabbit shot in the foot, which really doesn’t grab me. Slightly preachy lyrics really don’t help but few nice aural flourishes save it from sounding completely forgettable.
Goodbye Lovers and Friends: The big closer! After the disappointing weirdness of the previous two forays, there’s a real sense of triumph about this closing track, that effectively blends electronica and hefty guitar with lilting tempo-changes. For the first time in the album’s length, I’m genuinely hit by how strong and intelligent the lyrics are-a grim, narcissistic, crushingly honest look at the business of leaving people behind. A superb, accomplished number that promises so much more than the album delivers.
Overall Rating: 7/10
Best Tracks: Goodbye Lovers and Friends, Bullet, Love Illumination
Worst Tracks: Brief Encounters, Evil Eye, The Universe Expanded
In a Sentence: Franz Ferdinand eschews bright, preppy pop in favour of a heavier, more synth-based sound with severely mixed results.