sun 20/05/2018

CD: Franz Ferdinand - Always Ascending | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Franz Ferdinand - Always Ascending

CD: Franz Ferdinand - Always Ascending

Despite a change of line-up, the art-rockers plough familiar furrows

Franz Ferdinand's 'Always Ascending': efficient and finely tuned

What does a band do when it loses a key member? Pack it in? Carry on as if nothing has happened? Execute a radical change of direction? Nick McCarthy, Franz Ferdinand’s rhythm guitarist and keyboard player, left the band last July and their new album Always Ascending answers the questions.

Obviously, Franz Ferdinand have not packed it in after the loss and two new members replace McCarthy, a keyboard player and a rhythm guitarist. Before his departure, McCarthy had co-written all the band’s songs. The last record Franz Ferdinand contributed to was their hugely successful 2015 collaboration with Sparks, FFS. McCarthy sang lead vocals on one track. His loss might have been critical.

For their first album since Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action in 2013, they’ve hooked up with French producer Philippe Zdar to create an efficient, finely tuned synthesis of that album's dance-oriented elements and their eponymous 2004 debut.

Zdar’s characteristic brightness colours the album. A pin-sharp focus on rhythmic precision is familiar from his work with Phoenix. Where there is a groove to be emphasised, it is emphasised. Where there is a beat to be embellished, it is embellished. There are also – another trait inherent to Phoenix – repetitive vocal lines, bringing an anthemic quality. This, though, might be as much to do with the song-writing as the production. Always Ascending is stuffed with memorable, winning melody lines, spiralling guitar and clever, often arch lyrics. Fans will love the album. Ultimately, Zdar’s role seems to have been to bring focus rather than change anything.

Franz Ferdinand are carrying on as if nothing has happened. Always Ascending confirms that, whatever their line-up, no one does Franz Ferdinand like Franz Ferdinand.

Overleaf: watch the video for the familiar-sounding “Lazy Boy” from Always Ascending

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