So, everyone’s favourite indie band are back with a vengeance on their 4th album, bringing back memories of 2004 and the mega-hit of “Take Me Out“. After the mild disappointment of Tonight: Franz Ferdinand which brought the singles but little else, it’s a pleasure to hear Kapranos and company pull away from the poppish stylings of their last album and concentrate on what makes Franz Ferdinand such a lasting band – pure songcraft with polished hooks, funky basslines that command one’s feet to move, and Kapranos’ idiosyncratic vocal delivery.
From the first track of Right Action it’s clear that the ingredients are all still present and ready – the drums power the songs forward with frenetic energy like an upbeat Gang of Four, synths and guitars meld into each other as the melodies, poppy but never bland, arc over bouncing basslines. The songs still slip between softer acoustic sections that tug at the heartstrings and those danceable hooks, showing off Kapranos’ versatility as a singer and writer in the same vein as Eleanor Put Your Boots On from their second album. There are, as ever, a great range of influences that reveal themselves through each track, ranging from bluesy guitar licks on Fresh Strawberries to the punk-lite that immediately follows on Bullet, and as ever the synergy between the musicians is plain to see – every melody is practically seamless in its connection to the next, and rather than stick to a simple chord sequence for all 3 minutes there is some genuine invention throughout.
Now of course the nitpicking starts here; it sounds like their other albums, to the extent it feels nearly unimaginative. It would have been truly fantastic to hear Franz Ferdinand bring their creative prowess to the sounds of 2013, instead of sticking so doggedly to their guns. Whilst the sound has been developed and refined, the album is sadly stuck in the shadows of its predecessors, and it shows – listening to this record one gets the sense it’s all been done before. On their other albums. The songs also are lacking somewhat in the shock’n’awe of their first or the emotional beauty of their second, maybe because we’ve heard these tricks before. The album is as infectious as ever, but it could have easily been a collection of extra songs from the debut’s recording sessions.
Fortunately this album has plenty saving graces to keep it afloat, with the standard Franz Ferdinand melodic power shining through as brightly as it did on their first two albums, and the end of the album is genuinely pleasing to hear, especially on The Universe Expanded, a song that perfectly masters the major/minor mix we’ve all grown to love from this band. It’s certainly a good album, one to listen to again, and it’s a great imitation of their older work. Whether you’d rather hear the original or this semi-facsimile is up to you.
Released 26/8/13 on Domino