Sign in using your account with
Franz Ferdinand: Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
It isn't too much of a stretch to credit Franz Ferdinand as having been one of the most influential bands in Britain over the last decade or so. Since the Glasgow-based group's 2004 self-titled debut album, skinny ties, pointy shoes and a sporadic interest in avante-garde art have been all the rage.
While acclaim continued to stream their way with second album You Could Have it So Much Better (2005), the four-piece indie band were victims of the dreaded third album jinx. Although it's universally thought to be a fine stand-alone album, 2009's Tonight: Franz Ferdinand lacked the expected Franz Ferdinand punch.
The band's fourth album, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, is - if you want to get dramatic - stick or bust.
The album opens with title track, 'Right Action', and immediately reeks of early 2000's British indie, thanks to some rather grating chorus-chanting. It sets the tone for first half of the album, though it does improve, as it touches on the best elements of the tried-and-tested Franz Ferdinand formula – maybe a little too much, though. While tracks like 'Evil Eye' fulfil any yearning for the band's playfully sinister nuances and sexuality, it shows little consideration for the fact that fans of the Franz Ferdinand of 2004 are almost ten years older.
It isn't until you reach 'Fresh Strawberries' that things get interesting – but different isn't always better. Firstly, songs like this and 'The Universe Expanded' reveal Kapranos' many vocal flaws, as he often wavers when changing pitch. From then on in, one can only really call Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action a pleasant and inoffensive album – there are no stand-out tracks. Even the album's first two singles, 'Right Action' and 'Love Illumination' blend into the bland and generic tone of it all.
Essentially, this is an album that feels like it's building to a punch-line that never comes; each song feels like it's on the tip of something that never materialises. While there are noticeable strands of experimentation, for lack of a better word, Kapranos and co don't really commit wholeheartedly to the new direction that the album threatens to break into.
There's not enough of the new, but enough that it taints the old in some sort of weird unbalance. This is by no means an ailment that is exclusive to Franz Ferdinand; we've seen the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Kaiser Chiefs struggle similarly. But you can't help but expect more from the ordained intellectuals of the British indie music scene.
In eleven songs, they built a unique sound that you couldn't quite put your finger on: slow beats dressed in austerity, accompanied by enigmatic lyrics and lone wondering guitars. With a Mercury music prize under their belt and almost every music critic at their feet, they started work on their sophomore album.
But overall, this album is much less introverted. Both Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim seem to have gained confidence as singers and hone their vocal skills with more conviction then they did on their debut album.
Beatmaster Jamie xx, having built a very solid reputation as a producer in between the creation of the two albums, also steps closer to the limelight on this record. Even more songs than on the debut album are built on beats instead of a guitar riff and those beats are slightly more experimental than they previously were. There is even some steel drum - certainly not the hippest of instruments - seeping through in ‘Reunion’.
Ever since the 2012 release of their double a-side single, ‘Flying To Berlin/Husbands’, Savages have occupied an interesting space in the musical spectrums. With a mixture of old school post-punk and noise rock, they appear to be the perfect cross-section of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Swans. Their frenetic, dark, and sinisterly beautiful style has been receiving rave reviews the world over from critics and fans alike and their latest EP Adore Life is more of the same.
This is an album about love, but one would hesitate to call any of the tracks traditional love songs. Instead of falling into classic song writing tropes about how amazing love is, Savages instead approach the subject matter from a much darker perspective. This is an album about the true power of love, nd how that isn’t always a good thing.
The opening track, ‘The Answer’, heaves with energy from the get go, telling the story of an almost obsessive infatuation, with frontwoman Jehnny Beth (real name Camille Berthomier) repeating the words “If you don't love me/You don't love anybody” throughout the song just to drive home the fact that love can be a dangerous force. The hectic instrumentation provides a binary opposition to Beth’s sweet tones and is the perfect start to the record.
That is not to say that Adore Life is unrelenting in its aggression. This album is a mixture of forceful distortion, British post-punk and torch songs, and nowhere is this more apparent than on the song ‘Adore’. It’s slow, it’s bassy, it’s reverby (is that even a word?) it’s dark, but above all, beautiful. Concluding with a lyrical coda accompanied by a slow crescendo, it sounds like something you would hear in a smoky Paris café at 3AM. Make no mistakes, this is an early contender for one of the best songs of 2016.
Even towards the end of the album, they manage to keep the energy up. The penultimate track, ‘T.I.W.YG’, is almost a sequel to ‘The Answer’ in terms of style and narrative. The instrumentation provides an organised cacophony to truly drive home the fact that, this is what you get when you mess with love.
For what is only a second album, Adore Life shows a surprising maturity from the London-based female foursome. The lyrics are emotive without being contrived, the instrumentation is varied without being schizophrenic and the style is classic without being clichéd. This is more neo-post punk as opposed to post-punk revival and thank god it is, because the last thing we need is another attempt to revive a past genre. Remember the comment about the band being perfect cross-section of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Swans? This album hits the nail on the head, being equal parts a love song to the past and an ode to the fuzzy future.