Franz Ferdinand, once one of the largest rock bands in the UK, have faded into relative obscurity in recent years. However, this did not nullify the riff-tastic legacy of their first two critically-acclaimed records, 2004’s self-titled debut and 2005’s You Could Have it So Much Better. The singles from both of these albums were successful, with the smash hit ‘Take Me Out’ propelling them to stardom; it can still be heard in many a packed-out dance floor 14 years after its release.
I was delighted to hear that Franz Ferdinand had decided to do another studio album, following on from 2015’s bizarre studio and live collaborations with U.S band, Sparks. It was an odd move for the band and while being mostly well received, I feel it failed to gain the attention that an individual record may have done, making the 5-year gap between records feel lengthy. There were also questions over how the band might sound following the departure of founding member, guitarist Nick McCarthy (although his departure doesn’t seem permanent). Always Ascending is the groups 5th album and starts off solidly with the title track, starting off slow before turning into a very catchy track that’s easy to dance to – although nowhere near as infectious as ‘Take Me Out’ or ‘Do You Want To’. ‘Lazy Boy’ boasts a strong bassline and background keyboards and is more guitar focused than some of the other songs on the album, and again finds the band urging you to tap your feet.
‘Paper Cages’ is perhaps a more mundane effort, which I feel slightly misses the mark but is still enjoyable. ‘Finally’ sounds like something from one of the bands earlier records, reminiscent of songs such as ‘Walk Away’, showing how strong Alex Kapranos’ vocals remain and have changed very little since the band formed.
…it is a fun return from Glasgow’s finest
‘The Academy Award’ is an odd number, with its social commentary seeing out of place amongst Ferdinand’s back catalogue and with the lyrical beats of the rest of the record, perhaps a sign that they’re striving to not just write songs about being young anymore in the vein of ‘No You Girls’ or ‘Jaqueline’. In spite of this it’s a strong song and is a move towards more ballad-like sounds. ‘Lois Lane’ is more satirical, poking holes at modern day journalism. ‘Huck and Jim’ is another song that could fit on the bands earlier albums, and features Kapranos rapping about the NHS.
The album finishes in strong style with penultimate track ‘Feel the Love Go’, maintaining the synth-pop feel of the title song, as well as a more up tempo beat. Closing track, ‘Slow Don’t Kill Me Slow’, is a slow-burning melodic track which juxtaposes well with ‘Feel the Love Go’. Whilst the album is not perfect, it is a more-often-than-not fun return from Glasgow’s finest, showing they are still one of the more capable British rock bands around. Hopefully we can expect a shorter turnaround before their next record.