Franz Ferdinand – Always Ascending
- David Pollock
- 5 February 2018
The band's new album is filled with ideas, maybe too many
In the five years since the release of their last album (we aren't counting 2015's Sparks collaboration), guitarist Nick McCarthy has departed, while electronic producer Julian 'Miaoux Miaoux' Corrie has been recruited. Add in another new member who isn't on this album – guitarist Dino Bardot, formerly of the band 1990s – and it equals the 2018 reincarnation of Franz Ferdinand.
Produced by Cassius' Philippe Zdar, the record is clear but not polished in its intended rawness, steered by the ever-present and wryly compelling confidence of Alex Kapranos' lead vocal. Franz's fifth album is dense with ideas and sonic playfulness: the title track is one of the most focused and well-realised results, with Corrie's grinding synthesiser riffs and ghostly backing vocals lending the song an air of Django Django, while 'Lazy Boy''s mantra-like hymn to the joys of sleeping-in is relentlessly catchy, coming in like Giorgio Moroder and going out like the Fire Engines.
'Feel the Love Go' finally brings Franz Ferdinand together with the club movement of their earliest days, adding squelchy electroclash keys to an archetypal FF chorus, while the closing 'Slow Don't Kill Me Slow' is a swooning ballad which takes the band as close as they're likely to get to Low. There are highs throughout which you want to hear again such as the wistful 'Huck & Jim's grungy declaration that 'we're going to America / we're going to tell them 'bout the NHS' and 'The Academy Award''s plaintive orchestral dismissal of melodrama. But at other points some songs are overly busy, switching tone and style midway, as though the right hook can't quite be decided upon. They are a new band, after all, and they're still finding their feet.
Out Fri 9 Feb on Domino.