It never bodes well for a band when they’re putting out what could be accurately described as a “comeback” album only four albums deep into their career.
Franz Ferdinand roared out onto the scene back in 2002, a mere 11 years ago with their self-titled debut. It tore up the charts and electrified the indie rock world, setting a standard for dance rock purveyors to try to imitate for a good chunk of the decade.
Simply put, “Franz Ferdinand” established all of Franz Ferdinand’s dizzying trademarks and made them stand out from the pack: their crunchy pop hooks, the groovy disco-esque delivery, the glam, the sleeze, the strange-but-oddly-pleasant “old man” vocal styling of Alex Kapranos.
But the trouble with knocking it out of the park so well on your first try is that all future successes will always be compared to that first foray. And that’s the weird place Franz Ferdinand find themselves in 2013 – still slowly grinding out albums that bubble up to the top with one or two hits every now and then, but never conjuring the magic that was all over their debut.
So on “Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action,” as if sensing that their sell-by date was fast approaching, the Scottish lads decided to go for broke. New ideas be damned, they were going to make “Franz Ferdinand 2.0” and we were going to think they were cool again for the first time since high school.
While their effort can be applauded and the opening riffs of the title track seem promising at first, the problems that have plagued all previous Franz Ferdinand albums since their time in the sun are quickly apparent.
The Franz Ferdinand formula has always been take a few basic notes and repeat into dance-fueled frenzy. Ideally, if it’s the right combination of notes, you get chart-topping gold (See, “Take Me Out” and “Do You want To?”). When they’re not, you have songs that are fun for exactly 30 seconds, then pointlessly dull until they’re over.
Each song features Franz Ferdinand bravely trying to make a catchy song out of the barest of ideas. After the plodding open, “Righty Thoughts,” “Evil Eye” and “Love Connection,” inject a fresh shot of adrenaline into the mix, almost like the Franz of old. “Stand On The Horizon” switches gears up slightly by invoking a slow beach melody to add something new, but no less keep rumps shaking. But by the time the bleak and banal, “Treason! Animals” starts and Franz Ferdinand lazily forgets to attempt any sort of hook, the momentum is just stalled, never to start again.
Alex Kapranos has always had an interesting vocal style with his lyrics – equal parts sleazy as they are dripping with sarcasm. But here he just sounds bored, going through the motions; it’s the only explanation possible for lyrics like, “But how can we leave you to Saturday night or Sunday morning?/Good Morning.”
The sad thing is, the real reason Franz Ferdinand seem so bland now and hunger for a comeback is because maybe, just maybe, there wasn’t much there to begin with. When stripped away from all their glammed up, repetitive hooks, they’re exposed as just gaggle of pretty bland lads who make some pretty bland music. Nothing more, nothing less.