In 2004, it was impossible to go to an indie disco and not see the place slayed by Franz Ferdinand‘s monstrous second single, ‘Take Me Out’. That track, and the self-titled album it came from, was a glam, pop, art-rock gamechanger that turned frontman Alex Kapranos, guitarist Nick McCarthy, bassist Bob Hardy and drummer Paul Thomson into one of the UK’s biggest and most exciting bands. In the decade and a half since, the Scots have released three more giant-selling albums, headlined festivals and sold out arenas the world over. And yet in 2018, Franz have found the need to prove themselves all over again.
Two years ago McCarthy left the band, and the three remaining members were faced with the choice of imploding or evolving. They went for the latter, and picked up two new members: Julian Corrie on keys and Dino Bardot on guitar. From there they started over with a newfound purpose.
That purpose strikes you immediately on the blossoming crescendo of electro-punk joy that is the title track, which shares the ethos of LCD Soundsystem: this is dance music played not by machines, but by humans. ‘Always Ascending’ is, everywhere you look, a record driven by vim, vigour and ideas, and plenty of Kapranos’ idiosyncratic way with a lyric.
‘The Academy Award’ wryly pokes fun at the world of celebrity in the age of the selfie (“And the Academy Award for good times goes to you“), before the meandering soon-to-be gig-highlight ‘Lois Lane’ bursts into a blistering anthem about the darkness of middle age (“At the over-30s singles’ night it’s bleak, it’s bleak, it’s bleak / See you next week“).
Kapranos’ best moment, though, comes on the college rock of ‘Huck And Jim’, which shoehorns the NHS, the DSS and Buckfast into a marvellous chorus that blends brilliant geekery with a sweet pop release. His Jarvis Cocker knack of being the party librarian remains, with his nose in a book but feet on the dancefloor.
Things conclude with the Donna Summer mirrorball shimmer of ‘Glimpse Of Love’, the inescapable disco fun of ‘Feel The Love Go’ and ghostly and cinematic outro ‘Slow Don’t Kill Me Slow’. Franz’s trademark guitars are there, but not at the forefront. Instead synths are at the heart, alongside an irresistible dedication to having a good time. “I don’t want to make a record that sounds like one some other c**t made,” Alex Kapranos told NME in October last year.
Well, no other c**t could have done.
Release date: 9th February, 2018