Franz Ferdinand - Always Ascending

by James Weiskittel Rating:7 Release Date:2018-02-09
Franz Ferdinand - Always Ascending
Franz Ferdinand - Always Ascending

When Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos recently described the band’s soon-to-be-released fifth album Always Ascending as “the sound of the future”, one could almost feel the ripples of trepidation as a collective eye-roll was shared by the band’s fanbase.  But self-serving ‘this-is-our-best-album-yet’ hubris aside, Franz Ferdinand should be commended for not only outlasting the fifteen-minute-long shadow of their 2004 self-titled debut, but also for the fact that their latest release, Always Ascending, is easily their best album since 2005’s You Could Have It So Much Better.

Billed as a ‘rebirth’ of sorts, Always Ascending might be more accurately classified as the sound of a band ‘rejuvenated’, as while the formula (slickly produced, dance-ified indie-rock) remains pretty much intact, the band has found a way to channel some of that youthful disregard that had made their debut such an infectious affair.  The fact that Always Ascending comes on the heels of a tumultuous time for the band, which saw the departure of founding member Nick McCarthy and welcoming of new members Dino Bardot and Julian Corrie to the fold, the record’s inspired sound is all the more impressive.

After a brief, piano-driven intro, the album-opening title track quickly transitions into the sort of electro-pulse romp that put this band on the map. Meanwhile, the funk-tinged “Lazy Boy” and the infectious “Paper Cages” succeed in mining the all-too familiar territory of the band’s heyday while managing to sound fresh and contemporary.

Overall, Always Ascending avoids many of the trappings and tropes that can often accompany a band’s fifth record (not including 2015’s FSS); the ambitiously melodramatic “The Academy Award” is clearly a highlight, as is the album-closing “Slow Don’t Kill Me Slow”.  In fact, while the major overhaul to the band’s sound appears to be the swapping of laptops for analogue synths, it’s when they plug into their amps that Franz Ferdinand shine the brightest.

And while far from perfect (the record’s second half somewhat retreads the A-side), songs like “Huck and Jim” and “Feel The Love Go” (which features an absolutely awesome saxophone solo) provide the album a sustained sense of momentum.  In fact, much of Always Ascending benefits from a sense of immediacy, feeling almost like a lost greatest hits record full of songs that you could have sworn you’d heard before.                                                                                                       

While Franz Ferdinand may have fallen off the pop-culture radar some time ago, for anyone who has fond memories of the band’s debut, Always Ascending may be the perfect excuse to reacquaint yourself with the band.  Whether or not Always Ascending will mark a watershed moment for the band remains to be seen, but Franz Ferdinand is clearly kicking off the second act of their career on a high-note.

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