In the five years since Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, Franz Ferdinand collaborated with art-pop legends Sparks, releasing a sneaky smart album together as FFS, and saw the departure of founding guitarist Nick McCarthy. Dino Bardot (guitar) and Julian Corrie (keyboards) joined the band in his place and Franz Ferdinand have re-emerged as a band that seemingly gets it right no matter what the circumstances.
The opening title song makes no qualms about the album’s intentions. Always Ascending sets its eyes on the dance floor with bubbling synths strutting around the band’s trademark post-punk tautness. “Lazy Boy” retains the band’s angular edges but finds the band sounding looser than ever. The thin slice of influence where funk and disco overlap becomes a wide horizon for Franz Ferdinand throughout the album and they pull it off with panache.
The middle of the album unfolds unlike anything Franz Ferdinand have done before. The acoustic sway of “The Academy Award” turns us away from the dance floor long enough for Alex Kapranos to deliver the thematic thrust of the album as a whole. Technology (“camera in every hand”) and the plastic reality of our existence (“through liquid crystal we look at the world”) renders us bereft of true emotional connections. Its hard to imagine fans of the band haven’t figured that out for themselves long ago but the song is so damn beautiful that you don’t fault the band for it.
The more overt political slant of “Huck and Jim” almost gets lost in the exhilarating twists and turns of the music before the album returns to the dance floor with “Glimpse Of Love”, the finest disco song a rock band has recorded without Debbie Harry. “Feel The Love Go” trades the disco shimmer for a darker electro-pop grind that almost taunts us with an 80s sax solo that drives home the band’s mission to bring the live band experience back to dance music.
For indie fans who count the debut albums from Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, and Interpol as sacred texts, it is hard to deny that Franz Ferdinand have evolved into the most exciting and relevant of the three bands. While Always Ascending might ruffle some feathers with the most loyal fans, the band has found the perfect balance between their post-punk guitar roots and contemporary dance music. In doing so, the band has begun to edge into the hallowed realm of bands like New Order and beaten LCD Soundsystem at their own game.