Franz Ferdinand

Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action

For those who can remember that far back, Franz Ferdinand arrived with an agenda that stayed clear in miasma of hype that surrounded them; they would make "music for girls to dance to". Not being a girl myself, I can’t entirely confirm whether or not they’ve stuck steadfastly to their initial aim. Yet one suspects that, as manifestos go, this was a tongue in cheek one, that the only thing they were truly serious about was instigating fun. The Mercury Music Prize they won, the two Brits and the three and a half million records sold were a (more than welcome) bonus.

Franz Ferdinand are essentially a pop machine that keeps firing out hits, and for all the "alternative" guitar slingers they might have influenced this last decade, they have more in common with the 80s Pete Waterman than the 21st century indie scene they’re usually pigeonholed in (and it’s weird to think Alex Kapranos is older than Waterman was in his heyday).

Two things have got them to where they are today: a) the preternatural ability to write a dazzling tune and b) a lack of fear of plundering. Larceny and sharp, immediate hooks permeate everything they do, and so it is with Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action. "Everybody steals," sings Kapranos on ‘Fresh Strawberries’, and its no coincidence that that song rips off wholesale the Hollies and then Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Every hook, every beat, every idea seems to come from somewhere, though the ability to thieve others’ motifs and pass them off as your own takes craftsmanship.

Sit down and grab yourself a pencil – the pop nuggets seem to come from everywhere, and at times they appear so unlikely that you start to question your own sanity. Is it just me or does ‘Right Action’ sound like ‘Doin the Doo’ by Betty Boo? Has ‘Love Illumination’ borrowed its melody from Motörhead’s ‘Ace Of Spades’ and is ‘Evil Eye’ a nod to Backstreet Boys’ ‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)’? Whether or not that’s true or not is irrelevant, FF are like Teflon when besmirched, shrugging off Go West-gate when ‘Do You Want To’ came out in 2005 (and if they can shrug off ‘We Close Our Eyes’ then they’re probably indestructible). Sometimes they’ll teef from David Bowie, sometimes David Sneddon, but wherever it comes from it makes perfect sense when the composite four are gathered together in the Archduke’s name.

Ostensibly the new record seems the most pop yet, though towards the end things get a little more experiential and the band dip into the neu-psych sound that’s so frightfully au courant right now. ‘Brief Encounters’ has spooky organs and lysergic guitar solos and ‘The Universe Expands’ is mind bending and suitably expansive. Perhaps the most interesting curio of all is ‘Treason! Animals!’, where Franz come on like a 60s beat combo on their first trip, with Kapranos singing wildly about being in love with a narcissist, his analyst, his nemesis… "I know for the mirror told me". It’s weird and wonderful and edgy enough to stand out.

Otherwise it’s business as usual. If you want to know if girls still dance to Franz Ferdinand or not then you’ll have to ask someone who still goes to clubs – I’ve retired. This is a band who somehow remain ageless, but do you wonder how long that can last. At what point will they start feeling like mutton dressed as lamb? One hopes never. As long as Franz Ferdinand continue to make great pop music, there’ll always be room on the turntable to accommodate them.

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