Review by Roisin Corbett
Out now on Domino Records
In the spirit of full disclosure, I was a huge Franz Ferdinand fan 14 years ago when they released their debut album. To say that ‘Always Ascending’, their fifth studio album, is a departure from their earlier sound is a bit of an understatement. Synth-driven, with topics covered ranging from the NHS to Buckfast, this is a far cry from the witty indie rock of the early noughties.
Standout tracks ‘Lazy Boy’ and ‘Huck and Jim’ still maintain some of this wry humour, which at one point seemed to be the band’s signature style. However, the album does seem to lack a sense of cohesion, and does feel rather like a collection of tracks, as opposed to one consistent product.
All bands styles mature over time, but I must admit I did find myself missing the guitars that were so ever-present on earlier albums. They are of course still there on ‘Always Ascending’, but the star of the show here is definitely the synth, which is the overriding instrument on each track. After a while, this does have a bit of a tendency to make the tracks blur into one a little. The most notable departure from this is the sax solo present on ‘Feel the Love Go’ – a solo which was not personally to my taste, but I’m sure others would love.
The title track itself is clever, in that it is indeed ‘Always Ascending’ and doesn’t seem to build to a climax. However, this does make it a rather unsatisfying song to listen to – particularly as an opener.
All that being said, I’m sure these tracks are all fantastic to hear live, and without fail are exceptionally catchy. If you’re lucky enough to have tickets to see Franz Ferdinand at one of the festivals they’re playing at this summer, I’m sure you’ll have a brilliant time.
On the whole, I have mixed feelings about this album. I can appreciate it for what it is – which is a catchy piece of music, by a band who are seeking to evolve and broaden their horizons stylistically. However, as a long-time fan, there is a little part of me which is struggling to warm to this new style, and I suspect I’m not alone in thinking so. This is definitely an album which would sound better live – so do try and catch the band on tour if you can!