A hot new band crafts a world-beating hit that threatens to pigeonhole them forever. What then? Should they simply let it, by doing the same thing over and over? Or should they ping pong from one idea to another just to escape the one-hit-wonder mantle (and never mind that they’ve written other hits)? Over a decade, Glasgow’s Franz Ferdinand have charted a middle path. The new wave slam that made “Take Me Out” 2004′s most beloved hit is proudly in abundance on Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, their fourth album. The snazzy herky-jerking “Love Illumination” and the brisk pogo of “Bullet” could slot easily into any part of their catalog.
But they’ve never been afraid to detour — see, for example, the Small Faces twee of “Fresh Strawberries.” It’s also the album’s primary dud — but it’s of a piece with an album that feels deliberately classicist in a way their previous albums don’t. Thirty-five minutes short and largely shorn of the frills that marked 2009′s Tonight, Right Thoughts may be the band’s most curious album: The first time they’ve sounded like they were trying to make a “Franz Ferdinand album.” They’re still good at it, even when they slow down, as on “The Universe Expanded” (the loveliest ballad to mention the ASPCA in memory). “Goodbye Lovers & Friends” closes it out with singer Alex Kapranos avowing, “I don’t play pop music/ You know I hate pop music…This really is the end.” If it is indeed the band’s last gasp, it’s a sharp one.