More or less the Scottish answer to American bands like Interpol and the Strokes, Franz Ferdinand, with their du-jour cool and deft combination of insular art flair and dance-floor populism, was hailed by British hype machine New Musical Express as the dawn of a new rock revolution. The band’s blue-blazered appeal, however, started to slip after 2009’s overly serious concept album Tonight: Franz Ferdinand. Four years later, the zeitgeist may prefer its rock stars with suspenders and banjos, but Franz Ferdinand’s Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action is an unapologetically swaggering disco-rock album that refuses to overstay its welcome.
The album contains few real excursions from Franz Ferdinand’s standard formula of funky guitar licks, deep grooves, and enough punk sneer to keep melodies from becoming too pretty. But they’ve dispensed with their previous album’s histrionics and ramped up the self-deprecation and tongue-in-cheek wit. “Right Action” opens with enough boisterous energy and superfluous brass flourishes that it’s easy to miss the wry humor of Alex Kapranos’s lyrics: “Sometimes wish you were here, weather permitting.” The band also earns its Swedish-pop credentials by enlisting production help from Björn Yttling of Peter Björn & John: The synth line on lead single “Love Illumination” is catchier than anything MGMT has put out of late. Although Franz Ferdinand’s trademark angst crops up on “Bullet” and “Brief Encounters,” most of the tracks take their cues from the funkier, more playful bits of new wave, especially from early Talking Heads. “Evil Eye” revels in its own camp, playing like the soundtrack to an exceptionally intelligent Hammer film and featuring a deadpan Kapranos moaning like Caspar the Friendly Ghost.
Amid the album’s funky strut, though, are occasional stale patches. Lyrically, “Love Illumination” amounts to a retread of You Could Have It So Much Better’s “Do You Want To,” and the imitation of ’60s Britpop on “Fresh Strawberries” is anything but fresh. Fortunately, Bob Hardy and Paul Thompson’s propulsive rhythm section doesn’t allow the album to founder, and jittery, addictive guitar riffs courtesy of Nick McCarthy abound. The album ends with the ironic self-indictment “Goodbye Lovers and Friends”: “Don’t play pop music, no!/You know I hate pop music.” The beauty is that this perfectly executed adieu also marks a welcome return.