In its good moments, Always Ascending is funky, well-polished, and engaging. However, on their fifth effort, Franz Ferdinand cannot escape sounding like a hollowed-out version of the band they used to be.
The title track starts the album well – slick, hypnotic and unquestionably groovy. However, as soon as it ends, it feels the album has already lost its energy. The mindless ‘Lazy Boy’ manages somehow to be both forgettable and tediously repetitive, an unfortunate precedent for most of the album to come.
With every song, it’s impossible not to appreciate the talents of Franz Ferdinand, but equally hard to deny their fading potential. Every track sounds like a rehash of another song the band have written before, with added synthesiser. Alex Kapranos’ lacklustre vocal delivery only worsens this feeling, its previous vibrancy replaced with a dry, emotionless baritone.
Criticism aside, this album is not a bad effort – it just represents a once-great band now washed-up and out of ideas. It is not without its moments – the intro to ‘Paper Cages’ and outro to ‘Lois Lane’, the glorious 80s saxophone in ‘Feel the Love Go’, namechecking the NHS in ‘Huck and Gin’. However, these do not the redeem the album’s lowest points, the horrendous hook on ‘Academy Award’ almost certainly being the album’s nadir: “the Academy Award for good times goes to you”.
Although the album is titled Always Ascending, the same unfortunately cannot be said of Franz Ferdinand. When listening to this album, it is impossible not to hear the distant fire and fury of their previous releases somewhat missing from this album. Each song is a shadowy echo of their previous material, every idea a reiteration of something they did better before. It’s the natural sound of a band who are regrettable past their peak.