Within the first 30 seconds of music on the opening track of Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, it becomes delightfully obvious: Franz Ferdinand are back. Not the Franz Ferdinand of the puzzling 2009 record Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, but rather the Franz Ferdinand of 2003’s Franz Ferdinand.
That last sentence actually makes sense if you read it carefully; it’s just that this band has too many self-titled records in their discography. It’s not my fault.
Anyway, after the aforementioned 2009 album came out to mixed reviews (largely due to being misunderstood), the band faded from few, as if to lick their wounds, take a deep breath, and regroup. Gauging from Right Thoughts…, it appears the last four years have done them a world of good. Whether or not the band intended it, this record plays very much like a reboot—a return to the post-punk-dance-buzz-rock that put Franz Ferdinand at the fore of the new British indie invasion in the mid 2000s.
The disco sheen is still present; it’s just been placed more in the background, with jangly guitars once again coming to the front, along with the characteristic hat-tips to 60s British rock (complete with the occasional shimmery organ riff). Back also is the tongue-in-cheekiness—that wry half-smile with a tinge of self-deprecating sarcasm that flavored their early tunes, which seemed to get a little lost in the self-seriousness of Tonight. You hear it with the opening lines of “Right Action”: “I come home / Practically all is nearly forgiven / Right thoughts, right words, right action.” You hear it with the darker lyric of “We are fresh strawberries…We will soon be rotten, we will all be forgotten” set against an ironically whimsical, happy-sounding chord progression. And you hear it in the closing track “Goodbye Lovers and Friends”: “Don’t play pop music / You know I hate pop music.” Yeah. Right.
There are those who might view Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action as a step backward for the band, or even an admission of guilt for taking a wrong turn with the last album. Indeed, there’s enough modernization of the sound to suggest that Franz Ferdinand is trying to avoid being tied to the previous decade. But the band should not be ashamed about their return to form; this is the Franz Ferdinand we fell in love with, and this is the sound that first propelled them to greatness. (It’s not like there weren’t already retro vibes in it, anyhow.) This record may not pack the same punch as their first two records, but it is fun, danceable, catchy, humorous—basically all the things we love about this band. In my view, the album title is remarkably appropriate. It’s a refocused Franz Ferdinand that are definitely back on track.