Franz Ferdinand comes back dancing

'Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action'

Franz Ferdinand

3 stars (out of 4)

It's been four years since the last Franz Ferdinand album, but in many ways, singer-guitarist Alex Kapranos picks up right where he left off in 2009 on "Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action" (Domino). "Sometimes wish you were here," he croons, then pauses before firing off the punch line: "weather permitting." Kapranos' tongue-in-cheek wordplay comes loaded not just with cynicism, but also a sense that he's not all that. His narrator would like to be a better person, but meanwhile those hopped-up guitars – spiced with a brief sitar interlude and wordless vocal hooks – keep pushing him out onto the dancefloor, where he looks so effortlessly cool.

The Scottish quartet defined the intersection of dance music and rock a decade ago with the irresistible single "Take Me Out," and its fourth studio album keeps the glitter ball spinning. "Evil Eye" flirts with funk, "Love Illumination" dresses up in glam-rock glitter with its doubled guitar riff and even the relatively wistful "Stand on the Horizon" bobs on a buoyant disco bass line.

Kapranos and his bandmates always seized the pop imperative – standing still and moaning about their feelings never was an option. But there's always been more to their best songs than just looking good. Lurking inside the lean, dance-pop architecture are narrators who spend their time pretending to be suave and in control precisely because they're not. Self-doubt leaks into those seductive grooves, and in the second half of "Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action," the unraveling begins.

Kapranos sings about deadly obsession in the punked-up churn of "Bullet," then details his psychosis in "Treason! Animals" as a slinky, rinky-dink organ slides into a cave of murmuring voices. On "Goodbye Lovers and Friends," all is just about lost. "You know, I hate pop music," Kapranos declares. The man is nothing if not self-aware. He knows most rock bands have the shelf life of "Fresh Strawberries": "We will soon turn rotten, we will be forgotten." If so, "Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action" turns their not-so-imminent demise into a twisted dance party.

greg@gregkot.com

CHICAGO

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