Franz Ferdinand Go Retro-Futuristic on ‘Always Ascending’
As a band who created arguably the first classic indie rock anthem of the millennial-age with “Take Me Out,” Glasgow five-piece Franz Ferdinand have been relatively quiet in recent years. With only four albums under their collective belts since their breakout in 2004, lead singer Alex Kapranos has, respectably, chosen quality over quantity. With 2013’s “Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action” spawning an impressive six singles, the guys hope to set a new sonic precedent with their latest album “Always Ascending.” Though only a modest ten track effort, Franz Ferdinand are reassuring fans that their music is as qualitative, and innovative, as ever.
The dramatically produced title track kicks things off with an absolute bang. Hints of Talking Heads funk, retro swagger and Kapranos’ ever-boisterous vocals are simply put, stellar. Newly signed keyboardist Julian Corrie made an adamant effort to fill in the now-absent Nick McCarthy’s shoes right off the bat with some intense synth work of his own. Using an auditory illusion called the Shepard Tone, Corrie overlaps his sounds creating what appears to be a rising pitch, but in reality the pitch stays even. The result is, well, super cool. And even though Kapranos sings “Bring me water” over and over again, these guys are certainly in no need of replenishment.
As the album chassés along to tracks like the epically nasty guitar cut on “Lazy Boy” to the disco-leaning “Paper Cages,” the idea of future-rock begins to take shape. Kapranos has been quoted as saying he wanted to create “the sound of the future” on this record, with the caveat that he and his bandmates maintain a sense of natural rock n’ roll alongside it. When you look at songs like “Feel the Love Go,” you’ll at first be reminded of an LCD Soundsystem-like disco deep-cut until the chorus comes rushing in with all the vigor of early Franz Ferdinand. Then you have the garage-heavy “Huck and Jim” where Kapranos leads the band into everything from springy pop-rock to experimental prog-rock and even some voice modulation. “Finally” uses blips of 70s-era soap opera organs and lively organic drums, while “Slow Don’t Kill Me Slow” closes things out with a thoughtful ballad yet one that still remains retro-futuristic.
Once “Always Ascending” sinks into your brain like the determined earworm that it is, you’ll quickly realize that Franz Ferdinand has not skipped a beat. It’s amazing to see a band who by all measures started their career with their best work, yet come out with an album over a decade later that feels somehow fresher. This may be the group’s most profound project to-date, one that knows no bounds. “Always Ascending” somehow borrowed a little bit from every genre, era and artist yet turned into something utterly matchless.
“Always Ascending” is available Feb. 9 on Apple Music.