Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Franz Ferdinand - Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action


Point noted, I'm likely the last person in the World to ever profess we can never go without the occasional silliness. Even if such selective attraction is entertaining, music especially will do nothing but gain from those who set out with a mind-set built on far more than creative excess and personal discovery. Franz Ferdinand are one of these such moments when music can be taken in such a lesser-analytical and serious fashion; joyously working and succeeding not because of its attributes or its build...rather, pure and simply, its attitude. Franz's self-titled debut in 2004, was one of British Indie Rock's finest moments. And while that sub-genre does bring up stomach fluids more than it does mental-audio wonders, it's at least comforting to know that from out of the swagger and confidence of post-millennia rock, there were those [select few] who managed to build on Britain's stance as a credible creative nation, rather than weaken it. The music scene may not exactly have been on suicide watch over Franz's extensive lack of activity and presence as we approached the 10's, but that doesn't mean there's any love lost for a band who proved groove and guitars can swish around as smoothly as a vodka and coke. Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions doesn't take much deducing (on name alone) to suggest the band - four years since the slightly-less charismatic, hesitantly-more compact Tonight: Franz Ferdinand - might be taking to returning to former glory, trying like all [once] great bands do, in recapturing the spark and instigating those who may or may not doubt whether there's anything other than empty caskets left in today's proceeding. 

Third-of-the-title lead single, Right Action, definitely feels like Franz Ferdinand attempting to recapture that same dogmatic, disco-tinted boldness of their debut amid the track's lively guitar jabs and vocalist Alex Kapranos' high-flying harmonics that could light up any evening venue or open mass. And even with the sternness in delivery, there's still that charming nostalgia of indie rock at its most hiveminded togetherness via the pompous vocal imitation of brass bellows, electric guitar and analog synths alike. But it's not until we get to follower Evil Eye do we finally see (and remember with cheek-stretched grins) Ferdinand's knack for groove and complacency trumping all. As drummer Paul Thomson screams ahead of a one, two, three...pause...GO lead of guitars, the track coaxes in a surreal yet fine-crafted surveillance of late-night city culture that the Franz frontman does incredibly well at describing...and describing with a profound level of wit and cynicism. 'What's the colour of the next car?/It's red you bastard, yeh red you bastard/Don't believe in god, don't believe in this shit' he merrily hops and skips to in a voice that paints a shifting between both the naive binge victim, and the apathetic on-looker alike. The chemistry and the empathy-apathy paradigm produced about the hefty staccato guitar lines, is what excells the track's sharp swagger without coming off dated or shamefully indulgent. Like watching a young John Travolta strut his stuff down a street somewhere in East London or some less-colourful enclosure of downtown LA, and seeing the character giving no fucks about the inevitable response, yet profiundly seeking some manner of truce with the locals who 'don't see what I see'. 

But Kapranos and co. are not all about swag, that's the most important thing. They are a band encompassing style, but never unwittingly becoming trapped by it. Love Illumination is again another love-letter to past melodic alternatives. The more harmonious vocal sways in-between verses and instrumentation that expels, and unfortunately is the victim of some less-than-smart production decisions here, showcases again Ferdinand's grander expose of deeply-connected concept pieces. Had this track been a little less muddier in its clarity and more discreet with its direction, I might have thought again about the level of appeal this track has in contrast to its A-side counterpart previous. And as we roll onto the middle part of the album, there's definitely a continuing returning-to feel in how reminiscent of the band's debut some tracks feel. Stand On The Horizon, continuing down this melodic, less-blunt style automatically reminds me rhythmically of track favourites like The Dark Of The Matinee; while this isn't necessarily a hinderance to the pleasanty of the track's crisp string plucks and direct chord strums, neither does the track do any justice in giving its listener a nostalgia trip. 

What is disappointing unfortunately, is when Ferdinand not only use their past experience in present times, but comine it with an ideaology that is likely on the opposide end of that identity spectrum. Fresh Strawberries, as a result, is one of the album's (and overall, the band's) most head-scratching and downright head-shaking moments identity-wise.  Not only do I find myself continuing to pull past experiences forth - Darts Of Pleasure running through my head as the track desperately clambers for attention - in doing so, it tries its hand at this choral 60's-like delivery of vocal harmonics and breezy pop-rock you'd likely hear from one of many Beatles tribute acts, let alone the real thing. And if anything, it's quite embarassing to find Ferdinand actually striving to tckle this sound, let alone failing in actually grappling with it. But what negativity and disgruntled feelings are expressed are washed away - quite brilliantly so - with some of the most provoking and intriguing contexts Alex Kapranos has put pen-to-paper over when drawing up textual detail.

Treason! Animals' opposing-personality narrative concerning someone, whom on one hand flashes himself to the social masses as the self-professed alpha male; the ruler of the roost and leader of the pack, and in the other secretly details to his friends about the truth to said inferiority-superiority complex, plays a fashionably swarve card to the track's lavish layering of guitar tone and percussion. 'Hey friends when will you get here, hey friends I need to hear voices/I don't care what you say' Kapranos speaks likely the alpha-shade ego in parts, proclaiming 'I'm the king of the animals...so give me a crown'. But as the track reaches its climax - chirpy organs playing less the quirky bumble of previous - guitar and vocals alike fuzz into a tense choke-hold of anxiety; lyrics beginning to represent the character's eventual opening-up from out this artificial falsehood. What was once admiration for one's self, is replaced by a far more open and detested loathing, 'I'm in love with a narcissist/I know for the mirror told me'. 

And with The Universe Expanded - which plays out in the track's leading pulse of 60's sci-fi-esque synths and eery atmosphere to that of a Twilight Zone-era psychological horror - Kapranos' take on the concept of salvaging/longing a return to a lost love, albeit here quite interestingly in the form of reversing time's flow ('We'll laugh before every joke is told/We'll pose after every photograph') is both an intriguing method of emotional longing to the very last bittersweet realization that they the couple eventually 'part as happy strangers'. But admittedly, while I'm caught agasp by the cojoined joy and tragedy of this narrative, musically I would have preferred the band to have interjected a little more in variety and dynamics so as to the express the sheer intimacy of professing such inverted passages of love. Fortunately, Kapranos doesn't get too lost in his own personal flux of emotion, returning once more to that signature take-note-and-point profess of society's more indulgent fascinations in the bubbly, wife-swapping rotor of Brief Encounters; a track offering the album's most minimal of electric guitars and drum beats, but treating such forced repetitiveness (beside Kapranos' own lyrical looping) in emphasizing the nonsense and profanity of such social 'activities'. Goodbye Lovers & Friends closes the record with again, Kapranos' well-suited two-character dialogue spoken through the same person, guitars offering an equal heftiness of blunt apathy in its fumbling guitar chords and emotionless percussion hits. And to counterract, in the brief moments where a confession is made that it's 'so sad to leave you', the opposing viewpoint expresses a slightly more desperate reaching-out that ends in little more than acceptant realization: 'When they lie and say this is not the end/You can laugh like we're still together/But this really is the end'.

A mass majority of fans new and old alike will come away with Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action with satisfactory smiles (if not wide-arching in shape) at the quartet's return to full and fuelled charisma and charm on an album, like its predecessor, was an agonizing four year wait for the most eager of interested parties. The album is by no means excessively dominant or taking the place anytime soon of their debut as being the one with the most clear-cut content and means of delivery. Where this album falls in its obvious riding-the-wave of their debut's success, at times is forgettable so much so no level of character and personality the band have established for themselves, can salvage. The  most critical and helpful ace up Franz's sleeve then, is vocalist Alex Kapranos' unparalleled awareness and delivery of social and cultural high/low-points; here offering up an album that addresses far more brute and eye-opening themes, but still makes brilliant use of the musical and lyrical sharpness the band have done so amazingly well at leading into people's ears. It's by no means a return to full 100% form; the unexplained treachering into uncalled (let alone unknown) territory in places both out-of-place and, as noted, risking giving themselves a bitter aftertaste to those only now getting to know them. Though for the most part, Franz Ferdinand come to 2013 with that same spectating glance, and most definitely leave in equally as bold a fashion - that same lavish style and presentation ever present.
~Jordan

7.4

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