Electric Brixton, London

Music review: Franz Ferdinand deliver polished dance-rock, but don't exactly shake things up

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"Lick your cigarette and then kiss me," yelps Alex Kapranos on the ripe "No You Girls". The trim frontman (and part-time food writer) sports a short-sleeved gold shirt, trademark pointy shoes and is looking considerably younger than his 41 years.

You can never fault this outfit's energy or Kapranos's showmanship (throwing guitar shapes, bouncing on the spot like a pre-fight welterweight) and they've always been an impressive live band, memorably wowing a Heaven crowd four years ago. However, it's been a fair few years since most indie-rock punters have eagerly anticipated a Franz Ferdinand album. Thankfully their latest, Right Thought,  Right Words, Right Action, is their freshest since 2005's You Could Have It So Much Better (their last, 2009's Tonight, felt stale and weary), which was blessed with the thunderous single "Do You Want to". The pop anthem is an obvious highlight at this vigorous showcase in front of an adoring faithful.

The new record, almost played in full, is very much more of the same from the Glaswegian quartet, namely it's choppy, angular art-rock, with dry, droll lyrics ("Sometimes I wish you were here, weather permitting," Kapranos quips on "Right Action").

The German historian Michael Freund described Franz Ferdinand as "a man of who radiated an aura of strangeness and cast a shadow of violence and recklessness". It's not something you could level at the Archduke's namesake, who are a rather conservative and sweet-natured band that mulishly cling to the same formula. They channel New York post-punkers/new wavers Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club, plus the likes of Iggy Pop and Pulp. It’s polished dance-rock but oddly, from such a cerebral bunch, it sometimes feels a little empty and disposable, like an episode of CSI.

"It's nice to see you all, it's been a while," maintains Kapranos and judging by his goofy grin and energy levels he does look reinvigorated by the latest material. The standout new tracks are tonight's closing song, the acerbic "Goodbye Lovers and Friends", on which Kapranos snaps "I don't like pop music... I hate pop music", and the demented "Evil Eye", where the frontman enquires "What's the colour of the next car? Red the bastard, yeah red the bastard."

However, it's still the tracks from their splendid, Mercury Prize-winning 2004 debut, Franz Ferdinand, that lift the spirits and the feet: "Tell Her Tonight", the bittersweet "Dark of the Matinee", "Michael" and, of course, "Take Me Out". 

It's a confident, sprightly, dynamic return, then. And more of the same...

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