Four years in the making, Franz Ferdinand have finally returned with their fourth album, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action. At the dawn of the millennium, much of what was considered "Britpop" was either changing (Oasis, Suede) or disbanding (Pulp, Blur, Suede). FF were at the forefront of a new wave of punchy and groovy guitar rock with indie cred with a slighty punk edge (they would be snapped up by Sony quickly). After a minor breakthrough in the US with their debut and the hit single "Take Me Out", they quickly had loads of competition and imitators in other bands like Kaiser Chiefs and the Fratellis. Their biggest competition came in younger form a couple years later as Arctic Monkeys took the rockier edges of their sound and amped them up with darker lyrics. FF spent their next couple albums trying to stay in the game, but struggled a bit by album number three while looking to synths for new sounds and rhythms to add to the mix. They recorded the album twice, and while it was a good record, it lost a bit of their energy in the process.
Back with the indie label, RTRWRA does a bit of restoration in that department, as the songs bounce along with lighter feet than recent offerings, and much of the sonic structure shows a band very confident in their abilities and open to new influences without letting them overtake the party. The opening title track is a case in point, where the rhythm gets a little funkier than in the past, but the song by way of repetition becomes completely embedded in your skull after one hearing. Other songs like "Evil Eye" sort of reference the sound that FF came up with on their debut, albeit with a bit more of a haunted vibe. "Fresh Strawberries" is one of the most upbeat rock ballads they've come up with, while "Bullet" and "Treason! Animals." are just the type of quirk and cheek we've come to expect from them. It all ends with the spooky ballad, "Goodbye Lovers and Friends", leaving one to wonder if it is an epitaph to the album, this particular style of FF, or the band themselves. It's just one reason we keep coming back to them, as their lyrical ambiguity always keeps us on our toes. Every time we wait three or four years we are reminded why we like them, but wonder why they can't keep the momentum more regular. In any case, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action is another enjoyable album in their repetoire, and hopefully not the end.