by Dillon Price
Just when I thought they dropped off the face of the earth, Scotland’s dance-punk stalwarts, make a timeless comeback. Franz Ferdinand took the music world by storm around the mid-Millennium with their 2004 debut and 2005 sophomore album You Could Have it So Much Better. Their juxtaposition of retro genres – ranging from classic funk to 80s post-punk – gave them a distinct edge unheard from most bands during that era. In a nutshell, Franz Ferdinand got their start on a raw and vibrant landscape – propelled by stark romanticism, dance-inducing jangles and snarling grittiness.
The band’s heightened knack for originality has left fans wondering, “what happened?,” on 2009’s Tonight: Franz Ferdinand and 2013’s Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action. While they never abandoned their funk-driven architecture, the raw drive that put their first two albums on the map was minimized by overly-crisp production and an exhausted attempt at originality. It wasn’t until late last year when Franz Ferdinand made a prolific return – with frontman Alex Kapranos promising a return-to-form resurgence. In light of their fifth studio album, Kapranos vows to “make dance music but play it as a raw band.”
Since founding guitarist Nick McCarthy left the band in 2016, Franz Ferdinand welcomed newcomer Julian Corrie (also known as Miaoux Miaoux) to the band. What the band really has to deliver on the new album is an infusion of recycled ideas. It’s not to say that Always Ascending lacks in vigor. It possesses it’s moments of ebb and flow. The album’s title track is explosive and colorful – driven by potent funk undertones, explosive intervals and melodious chorus-progressions. “Lazy Boy” coalesces pulsating bass throbs and sobering drums with lively guitar-leads that rivals early tracks like “Do You Want To” and “I’m Your Villain.”
However, Franz Ferdinand falls short on generating fresh ideas that could propel their conventional soundscape into something more prolific. Sometimes it seems as if they’re not even putting in the effort. A prime example – “Huck And Jim” is the most difficult track to follow. I can’t tell if Franz Ferdinand are overcompensating for creativity or just being downright tongue-in-cheek – as Kapranos makes an awkward attempt at rapping.
On Always Ascending, the band has, no doubt, polished some rusty surfaces in their songwriting. Towards the end of the album, we hear some refined flair on “Feel The Love Go,” a bouncy dance track ornate with searing sax overtones. Always Ascending is a meager step up from Franz Ferdinand’s last two album. But youthful swagger is often impossible to recapture once it’s lost. Unfortunately this is the case for many great bands that have once stood on top of the world. But regardless of what direction Franz Ferdinand intend to embark, this album is incomparable to their “early stuff.”
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