Trying to reinvent yourself is never easy to do, but this feels like a grand renaissance.
Label: Domino Records
Released: 9th February 2018
‘Always Ascending’ is a sizeable rebirth for Franz Ferdinand after losing one original member but gained two in return, picking up a keys player for the first time as an official member in the process. Perhaps that’s where the almost choral opening of the album comes from before the inevitable kick into a title track that shows off what they do best.
It’s easy to separate the touches of the band’s classic sounds from the new, futuristic influences but ultimately they combine well with tracks like ‘Finally’ blending sound together nicely while ‘The Academy Award’ combines familiar, classic sounds with dissonant vocals to create a hypnotic campfire tale.
Everything has a greater electronic twinge than before – possibly inspired by their FFS collaboration with the effervescent Sparks – yet Alex Kapranos’s voice and Bob Hardy’s basslines remain such a defining feature of the band’s presence that you’ll not for a second dare think you’re listening to anyone else. There’s more variety than casual fans might expect as the band go out on a limb to take more risks than ever before via a hefty swing in production changes and the grooves seem to be for movers with far less rigid shapes than previous albums.
It’s impossible to ignore the hefty swathe of electronic input on the record – a real change in tone from 2013’s guitar-fest ‘Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action’ – yet this slightly unpredictable path for the band signals a willingness to adapt with the time rather than being stuck behind in the past. Trying to reinvent yourself is never easy to do, but this feels like a grand renaissance for a band whose songs still routinely swell around football grounds. This album isn’t for the three-minute indie song lovers, more those willing to wander just outside their comfort zone. Ciarán Steward