It’s appropriate enough that opening salvo of Franz Ferdinand’s fourth album is a found lyric, a moment of brilliance that isn’t quite matched by what follows. The words (“Come home - practically all is nearly forgiven”) are taken from a postcard lead singer Alex Kapranos found in Brick Lane market, and are directed to Karel Reisz, director of the French Lieutenant’s Woman. The sender is as unknown as Karel’s crimes. As Kapranos says “ it’s so evocative yet so concise at the same time, which is what a good lyric should be.” Not quite “For sale: baby shoes, never worn”, but not bad all the same.
For a moment, just there, it seems like the band might just have recaptured the magnificence of Take Me Out: as exciting a slab of spiky guitar as you will ever encounter. And then, true to form, they don’t quite follow up on the promise; the rest of the album is inconsistent, occasionally brilliant.
Evil Eye, with its shoutbacks, is amusing enough, but misses its intended mark of darkness, while Love Illumination has presumably been snuck in to fulfill the album’s “songs for girls to dance to” quota, and to keep up the illusion that Franz Ferdinand are a knockout pop singles band, but not much else. The truth is somewhat different.
Stand on the Horizon (a collaboration with Todd Terje) is the first standout moment, effortlessly sashaying onto the floor two minutes in, while Bullet showcases the best of the raw, aggressive, full throttle Franz Ferdinand. It’s just a shame that the up and down running order places the album’s weakest link, Fresh Strawberries, with its 60s-jangle, friendly bank advertising jingle of a chorus, between these two.
And what about Treason! Animals? Horrible title, no getting away from that, but its psychedelia does at least segue smoothly enough into time travelling love-song The Universe Expanded, and then in its final act, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action finally offers up a little consistency, albeit with a low-key, spacey coda: first, The Universe Expanded, then Brief Encounters, and finally Goodbye Lovers and Friends, with Kapranos perhaps seriously, perhaps tongue in cheek, perhaps just downright lying, declaring “you know I hate pop music”, before signing off with the so-obvious-it-must-be-a-bluff break-up lyric:
Goodbye, lovers and friends
It’s so sad to leave you
When they lie and say this is not the end
You can laugh as if we are still together
But this really is the end
Yeah, sure it is, Alex.