The smartest band in the room return with their fourth album but with their Zeitgeist-zapping appeal sapped. Their poor showing in last week's Irish chart at No 19 suggests that Franz have fallen from favour. But just like the well-dressed nerd at a party who ends up leaving with the coolest girl, you underestimate them at your peril.
They're at their clipped and economical best on this return to form - whippet thin, wiry and yet brilliantly subtle. Right Action is the first single and no wonder – it’s a real reconnection after 2009’s unloved Tonight! Franz Ferdinand. All the hallmarks are here, from agitated guitars with serrated edges, loping bass lines, martial drumming to Kapranos’ killer chorus. Evil Eye taps into the spirit of Radio Clash with the playfulness of Love Cats by The Cure, while Love Illumination begins like QOTSA and then locates its pulse in the fuzz-boxed era between Rubber Soul and Revolver complete with stabs of brass.
The involvement of Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor, dancenik Todd Terje and Bjorn Yttling of Peter, Bjorn & John fame, all men with big brains and a faculty for killer choruses and sly hooks, is stamped all over RTRWRA.
Meanwhile, Kapranos, the Sta-Prested modish pop star of ten years ago, sounds much less arch and ironic than on FF’s first two albums. Here he sings about the ravages of time on the spectral Brief Encounters and Goodbye Lovers and Friends and amid the hot bolts, rivets and pointy guitars, Stand on The Horizon is a real surprise, a lush love song with string synths and a drunk brass section recalling Metronomy. Fresh Strawberries has a similar spacious feel and when it manages to hit the sweet pop highs of primetime Teenage Fanclub it can only be a very good thing.
Like the admirably prolific Arctic Monkeys, there is a sense of people taking Franz Ferdinand for granted. With its thrills, wry asides and, yup, wisdom, Right Thoughts Right Words Right Action proves they deserve so much more. Reinvigorated and reborn, it’s time to make friends with Franz all over again.