Franz Ferdinand - Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
Much maligned painter Jack Vetriano is at his canvas most mornings before 6.00am. Mark Twain would secret himself away in his study after breakfast, re-emerging for the family meal at around 5.00pm. Follow David Lynch on Twitter and, although he hasn’t made a movie in a while, you soon learn that if he’s not making music or an animation or painting, he’s in his workshop knocking together a coffee table. The man appreciates the heft of a good hammer.
Artists, artisans, craftspeople - call them what you will, the thread that ties them together is an understanding that good work, more often than not, comes not by chance, but through practice, effort and graft. While you might get a break with your youthful enthusiasm and a bit of bravado, over the longer term you’ve just got to knuckle down and do the work.
There was a running joke in the office about the new Little Boots album and whether it would ever see the light of day. You can amuse yourself with similar snarks about whatever in absentia musician you want. What are they doing? Does it say ‘musician’ on their passport? So why aren’t they doing music? From the outside looking in, it's hard to understand. In the end, Victoria Hesketh’s album turned out to be pretty good - it might even be one of the best of its kind in 2013. Was it worth the wait? Shrugs.
That’s the risk you take. Fast-moving world doesn’t begin to describe it.
You might say the record industry has changed. Well, it has - but to quote Lux Interior, "Life is short and filled with stuff," and if you decide to take a break, recharge the creative batteries, fanny about on the farm, don't be surprised if when you come back, we've moved on, our attention drawn to The New Thing, or the Thing That Repays Our Interest.
Which brings us to the, at times, rather splendid new Franz Ferdinand album.
It seems good to have them back. Life seems better with FF around. And, after the disappointments of 2009's Tonight …, Right Thoughts ... sees them recapture the playfulness that originally set them apart from most of their contemporaries. But the danger is, with only two albums in eight years, any sense of momentum they ever had has long since dissipated and it's hard to guage just how widely missed they've really been.
You'll find that the sinister Scooby Doo vibes of ‘Evil Eye’ pale after about the second listen, but it’s a rare mis-step (albeit dangerously early in the running order) in what is overall a pleasingly strong collection. 'Right Action' lollops in with all the grace of a smitten teenager; 'Love Illumination' shoe-horns in both a saxophone and a 'Telstar' keyboard in a manner few others aside from Franz can get away with. 'Bullet' is one of those thrilling affairs that might inspire the young to knock off a policeman's hat. In fact it's so great, you're reminded just how smart, just how exciting they used to be.
If there’s a weakness, it’s the absence of much in the way of lyrical spark. There seem to be quite a few by-the-numbers relationship songs, and when Alex Kapranos strays off piste, as on the animalistic braggings of ‘Treason! Animals’, it’s all a bit … Lion King. Only when South Shields gets a mention do you recall that much of FF’s original charm came from their (not parochial) sense of characterisation and geographical place, and that absence does make you wonder whether their hearts are still truly in it.
So it's a strange one. Right Thoughts ... is a pretty good album. It's recognisably Franz Ferdinand, pleasing the hardcore and probably reminding others that they still exist. (Perhaps they'll watch 'Take Me Out' on YouTube?) Whether being 'pretty good' will see them back on festival bills rubbing shoulders with the big names in UK indie (White Lies, Foals), only time will tell.
If you want our attention, stop dabbling. More Thoughts, More Words, More Action.