Despite losing their much-loved guitarist Nick McCarthy last year, Scottish art-rockers Franz Ferdinand make another groovy statement with their fifth record, Always Ascending.
The title track opener is a good indicator for the rest of the album, beginning with rising piano chords, and almost Beach Boys’ style harmonies, before its floaty aesthetic shifts to a Talking Heads-esque dark disco synth track, as frontman Alex Kapranos repeatedly exclaims, “Never gonna resolve! Come on, talk to me!” Lazy Boy is stylistically similar, with more funk guitar and a bouncing bass line, alongside the biting refrain, “Am I gonna get up? Am I gonna get up, get up – never!” to create another dance-y track.
The record really amps up in the final third with the Abba-like Glimpse Of Love and stand-out track Feel The Love Go both offering driving disco beats, full of instrumental solos and some of their catchiest choruses to date. The closer Slow Don’t Kill Me Slow is far more mellow, harking back to older acoustic tracks from their second album, but with an element of electronica added for a compelling finish.
Paper Cages, Finally and Lois Lane have interesting moments, but none of them really stand out from the rest of the pack, as Kapranos’ vocals are at their most monotone, and the uncomfortable backing vocals really highlight the hole left from McCarthy’s departure. The grunge-heavy Huck And Jim is the most cringeworthy, though, with its gaudy chorus proving to be the low point.
Always Ascending isn’t Franz Ferdinand’s best album, but it’s certainly a grower, as the group continue to be a thorn in the side of mainstream dance music.
Edited by Ginny Wong