Album Review: Franz Ferdinand – Always Ascending

When a band loses a co-founding member it can be tough for them and for fans to accept. Franz Ferdinand moved past Nick McCarthy’s departure, expanded their lineup, and released their fifth album, Always Ascending. It’s another solid release from the Scottish band that sees them moving further away from the post-punk sound that made them explode in 2001. Listening to the disco-inspired tunes, it’s clear the band hasn’t missed a beat despite the major lineup change.

Taking a cue from their 2013 release, the album is full of upbeat, groove-laden dance tracks that make it impossible to sit still. Songs like “Always Ascending,” “Feel the Love Go,” and “Glimpse of Love” sound like a throwback to 70s disco with some electronic synth thrown in. There’s also a hint of 80s electronica on “Lois Lane” while “Finally” is a throwback to the 60s with its sleepy psychedelic vibe. The songs are catchy and fun, yet many of them lack the punch of their finest material.

The album finds the band leaning toward more electronic than rock influences. They’ve played with this on past releases, but here they fully embrace it. It shines on some songs, but on others, it’s a bit repetitive. If you want something closer to their post-punk sound, turn to “Lazy Boy.” It has the same swagger and vibe as their older material and even has a riff that sounds like unused music from their early albums. It’s a song that instantly grabs your attention thanks in part to the catchy hook of “I’m a lazy boy/I’m a lazy boy/always be a lazy boy.”

A hint of their older sound is also found on “Huck and Jim.” The song is a mashup of different sounds and styles, but the most satisfying comes right before the hook. Everything from the attitude, to the guitar riff and even Alex Kapranos’ singing, sounds like classic Franz Ferdinand. The song is kind of weird with the random shifts, but it’s oddly captivating.

The band mixes up the disco vibe with tracks like “The Academy Award” and “Slow Don’t Kill Me Slow.” The former is a haunting track that finds Kapranos singing “Show me the body/these pictures will shock you/Love is a drug we don’t need anymore.” The mood picks up with the hook “And the Academy Award for good times goes to you,” but there’s still this unsettling eerie vibe to it. The song is laid out like a haunting folk tale you’d hear around a campfire.

The album closes with the lulling “Slow Don’t Kill Me Slow.” With the soft music and crooning vocals, it sounds like a bleak lullaby and the feeling is right in the title: slow. It’s not a bad song, but the lengthy outro featuring spacey sounds is tiring to hear more than once. Compared to the others, the track just isn’t that interesting or exciting.

While Always Ascending doesn’t have the same bite and punch as Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, it’s still a fun record. The songs still have the band’s weirdness stamped on them, yet they remain catchy, upbeat, and energetic. Going for a more electronic, dance vibe the songs aren’t always the most memorable, but they’re still pretty solid and most of them are a lot of fun.  After the travesty that was 2017, it seems Franz Ferdinand just wants to let loose and make you dance. And we don’t mind grooving right along with them.

Always Ascending tracklist:

01 Always Ascending
02 Lazy Boy
03 Paper Cages
04 Finally
05 The Academy Award
06 Lois Lane
07 Huck and Jim
08 Glimpse of Love
09 Feel the Love Go
10 Slow Don’t Kill Me Slow

Purchase Always Ascending now!

Franz Ferdinand - Always Ascending
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Ashley Perez Hollingsworth

Ashley Perez is a freelance music journalist based in Chicago. Her work has appeared on AXS, The Crypt 1331, Chicago Innerview, New City, The Millions, and Reality-Comics. She also runs her own music blog at Radio Not Found. Some of her favorite bands include Nirvana, The Cure, Muse, Marilyn Manson, and Green Day.

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