Since their last release almost five years ago, Franz Ferdinand return with a slightly altered lineup on Always Ascending, released February 9th.<!—more—>
Not quite fifteen years since Franz Ferdinand made their international breakthrough with the catchy single “Take Me Out”, the band finds themselves in a much different musical atmosphere trying to catch the attention their debut attracted. The danceable pop rock of the early 2000s, with its clean and crisp guitars and nerdy aesthetics, has certainly evolved into a more electronic territory as many bands from that era spent the last decade meticulously blending the genres with few enjoyable results. Always Ascending finds Franz Ferdinand straying away from what worked so well for them on their debut.
The title track begins the album, slowly building with wispy synth before breaking into a predictable disco beat while the lyrics tease some sort of spiritual experience, “The shepard misleads you/so you think you’re ascending..” The following track “Lazy Boy” comes across as filler with a playful sound and short handed hook, whereas, “Paper Cages” and “Finally” move away from the disco beat and add a touch of growth to the album. “The Academy Award” starts haunting and intriguing only to take a turn to a over-used metaphor; life is a movie.
The lyrically puzzling songs continue, as it’s tough to tell if some lyrics are meant to be comical or not, the shifting balance makes for a challenging listening experience. The peak of this troublesome brew is the song “Huck and Jim”, almost an attempt to make an experimental track, equipped with time changes and even some lackluster rapping, again asking of the listener to decide whether or not this is meant to be comical. The dance beats return, keeping with the superficial lyrical content ending the album on a ballad entitled “Slow Don’t Kill Me Slow”, eerie and promising, closing the album on a high note.
Always Ascending finds Franz Ferdinand struggling to evolve, the lack of maturity in the lyrics and the forgettable use of synth reveals the band to be in a transformational stage. Whether due to the departure of Nick McCarthy on guitar or just trying to find their sound in the quick changing social atmosphere of the western world, the band still shows as much promise as their 2004 debut.
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