Always Ascending

by Franz Ferdinand

After the surprising team up with Sparks, to create the super-group FFS, Franz Ferdinand have morphed back to their usual selves to release their fifth studio album.

It is the first featuring new guitarist Julian Corrie, after the departure of founding band member Nick McCarthy.

boom - Franz Ferdinand - Always Ascending image

To open with there’s ‘Always Ascending’, with its long hippy intro, which doesn’t bode well. Suddenly, out of the blue, the band rock out with more than a hint of disco holding the track together. It’s boppy, boppy, boppy. After a false start it lets loose, shaking its thang in a controlled manner, with nice, balanced production values.

The retro electro vibe carries over into ‘Lazy Boy’ that gallops on at a fair old pace. Alex Kapranos is certainly up for the ride, thrusting here, wriggling there with his vocal workout. It’s a steed that knows where it’s going and it’s certainly fun being a passenger.

Dropping the pace a notch is ‘Paper Cages’, with its laid back attitude and savoir faire. Its melody is uncomplicated, with mostly a bass and piano leading you by the hand as its story unfolds. Kapranos is keen for us to step out of our cages. We should really comply.

It would be too obvious for a band like this to stick a track called ‘Finally’ at the end, so it feels fitting that it turns up here, just before the half-way mark. It has a glorious chorus that although busy, comes together rather splendidly. Cute and clever.

boom reviews Franz Ferdinand - Always Ascending

And the winner is...’The Academy Award’. A gentle intro, leading you along the red carpet to a song that harks back to a bygone age. Simpler times. It sounds as if it should be a love story, but then it gets all film noir, with talk of bodies and blood. If anyone asks, they did it. An atmospheric gem.

From film we move to comic book icons with ‘Lois Lane’. OK, she didn’t have any super powers, but she must have done something right to get Superman on her arm. Again, it’s a track that’s been dipped in a decade or so past, and works well for it. It gets a tad aggressive towards the end, when there’s talk of an over 30’s single night, but nothing you can’t cope with.

‘Huck and Jim’ has a whiff of musical theatre about it. Maybe abstract musical theatre. It’s a little out there, with its tale of going to America and telling them about the NHS and DSS. Like they’d listen. It’s all a bit seedy and creepy, and, like all musical theatre, shouldn’t really be allowed. If only it was panto, we could get behind that.

All aboard the seventies disco train with ‘Glimpse of Love’. And yes, it has its own mirror ball. Like many before it, it changes direction a minute or two in, throwing you off track a little, before getting right back on track again. Maybe it’s a groovy train? Towards the end, Kapranos goes a little bit Bryan Ferry, which is no bad thing.

And here’s the highlight of the whole caboodle. ‘Feel the Love Go’ has all the right ingredients to get the seal of approval. It is quintessentially Franz Ferdinand, with all their trademark quirks and twists in place. It helps that it’s less jarring than other tracks, and flows rather nicely from beginning to end.

boom reviews Franz Ferdinand - Always Ascending

‘Slow Don’t kill Me Slow’ brings the album to a close. It’s one of the longer tracks on the album, and sadly you can tell, as it hangs around a while like a bad smell. It’s pleasant, but far from memorable.

Much like the albums before it, Always Ascending certainly has its moments. The band have a way of taking a song that initially sounds simple, but is in fact, deceptively layered. Often it works beautifully, other times, it feels forced and contrived.

That said, the production is highly polished, giving the album many opportunities to just breathe, which makes for a sophisticated sound. But hey, Franz Ferdinand are sophisticated cats, who know their away around a song.

Although it doesn’t have the same kind of impact as its predecessor, Always Ascending is yet another fine showcase of what the band can produce, and that’s top quality, catchy tunes, and you can’t ask for much more than that.

three out of five