Franz Ferdinand – Always Ascending
Franz Ferdinand’s latest album thrives when the band indulge their sense of fun
Franz Ferdinand’s fifth effort is something of a sequel to their underrated 2009 album Tonight, albeit one less dedicated to prioritising the keyboard over the guitar. It thrives on the same endearing quirks and idiosyncrasies but suffers from the same aura of lethargy around its more straightforwardly indie rock tracks.
Jaunty piano and keyboard lines breathe a joyous energy into the album, and the irreverent wit of tracks like Huck and Jim ('We’re going to America, we’re gonna tell about the NHS') lives in the best Franz Ferdinand tradition. But on tracks like Paper Cages, the band sound unenthused and limp. Lazy Boy is one such track, though it is saved from its frankly phoned-in lyrics by infectious guitar riffs and a relentless earworm melody.
The eponymous lead single and album opener is a highlight, beginning with sparse piano while sci-fi synths swell in the background and eventually spill over into a raucous beat reminiscent of Kasabian at their most danceable and electronic, but with the grandiose swagger replaced by a wry smirk.
Lois Lane is emblematic of both the album’s flaws and its strengths. It follows a fairly conventional, understated and arguably underwhelming course until the last minute or so, when it explodes into a dramatic, totally over the top breakdown which brings the track to life, predominantly because it sounds like the band are enjoying themselves.
Always Ascending thrives when the band indulge their sense of fun – it's not the best work Franz Ferdinand have ever produced, but it's proof that they should embrace their intelligence and their quirks more and not try to be a standard indie band. They’re too good for that.
Listen to: Always Ascending, Huck and Jim