Franz Ferdinand’s debonair music has always transcended its influences, which has kept the U.K. quartet relevant for nearly a decade. It certainly helps that the band’s inspirations—early ’80s Scottish indie-pop, the arch cultural and social observations of Jarvis Cocker, gritty disco-punk, and British art-school rock—are a perfect foil for their clever, often-biting lyrics. In the band’s world, there’s as much meaning to be found in an egotistical lothario’s machinations and a cruel breakup as there is in a sloppy come-on or a debauched night out.
Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, Franz Ferdinand’s fourth album overall and first since 2009’s Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, still contains a fluid mix of high and low commentary; familiar themes such as destructive love, fateful romantic longing, and difficult farewellsare present. Overall, though, the record’s lyrics tend to be more soul-searching. “Fresh Strawberries” wonders about finding deeper meaning in a higher power, but isn’t so sure how or where to find this, or even if it’s the right path to explore. “Evil Eye” directly expresses atheistic tendencies, and the troubled protagonist of “Treason! Animals.” dictates who he’s in love with—a nemesis, narcissist, pharmacist, and analyst, to name a few—but each time reveals, “I know what the mirror told me.” The unsettled song ends on an even more resigned, helpless note: “Something has really, really gone wrong.”
Musically, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action also shows welcome growth. The pub rock of The Stranglers and Nick Lowe, as well as Squeeze’s catchy keyboard pop, are all touchstones. Burbling organ courses through multiple songs, including the downright minimalist-rock of “The Universe Expanded” and the surf-tinged pub rocker “Treason! Animals.”, while needling new-wave synths underscore the reggae-tinged “Brief Encounters” and take a prominent role on the Cure-esque, percussive-heavy “Goodbye Lovers & Friends.” Even weirder is “Love Illumination,” which boasts kooky organ, reedy horns, and an almost classic-rock-sounding bridge, and the highlight “Stand On The Horizon”; the latter starts as simmering disco-punk and segues into an extended coda with overlapping vocal melodies and glamorous string schmaltz.
Admittedly, these more nuanced Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action sounds aren’t as easily accessible; it’s much easier to gravitate toward more familiar raucous post-punk (“Bullet,” “Right Action”) or the Clash-reminiscent punk-funk of “Evil Eye.” But by expanding its worldview, Franz Ferdinand has very nicely settled onto a path toward career longevity.