Franz Ferdinand - 'Always Ascending' Review
Five years since their last album and three years since their impressive collaborative effort with American art rock legends Sparks, Scottish rockers Franz Ferdinand are back and sounding stronger than ever. Their new album ‘Always Ascending’ follows a change in line up due to the departure of founding guitarist Nick McCarthy. However, this change hasn’t seen the band lose any momentum with the new album bringing disco synth grooves to their quintessential brand of indie rock.
Always Ascending’, the first single released from the album and the title track perfectly captures the essence of the album to come. The slow piano introduction accompanied by the smooth crooning of singer Alex Kapranos is reflected in later number ‘The Academy Award’, which is an almost symphonic ballad highlighting the bands softer side. After this steady phrase of the title track the synth and drum kick in to a disco groove reminiscent of the early sounds of LCD Soundsystem. This disco influence is carried through the album in songs like ‘Feel The Love Go’ and ‘Paper Cages’, which take full advantage of the indirection of synth to the band. Bassist Bob Hardy also embraces the change in sound with rhythmic basslines in songs like ‘Huck and Jim’.
Amongst these charismatic and impressive songs there is the odd miss. ‘Lois Lane’ a song about the DC comics character seems to have the repetitiveness that is used a lot in the album. However, unlike the other songs the repetitiveness doesn’t push the song towards a climatic or interesting point, it just seems to stagnate. However, this is a minor mishap in what is all in all a very strong comeback from the band.
It can be difficult being a band whose most popular hits lie in the mid 2000’s. Bands like The Fratellis and The Kooks have tried to break out of being characterised by that period, but they’ve never really released a strong or different enough album to do so. Franz Ferdinand however have slowly been moving away from being trapped in that era. Their previous album ‘Right Thoughts Right Words Right Action’ was a small step in the right direction and for me this new album is another fairly substantial step. They have taken the energy and charm they had from the earlier albums and added a whole new layer of sound. The last track in the album and sequentially my favourite ‘Slow Don’t Kill Me Slow’ really hammers home the development in sound, embracing the synth and ending the album with a perfect almost operatic piece of music.
‘Always Ascending’ is out tomorrow (9/2/18) on Domino Records.
Songs to check out: 'Slow Don't Kill Me Slow', 'Always Ascending' 'Lazy Boy' and 'Paper Cages'