After collaborating with Sparks in 2015, the newly reconfigured Franz Ferdinand line-up return with Always Ascending. Lots has changed in the Franz world – heartthrob guitarist Nick McCarthy is sitting this one out with keyboard player Julian Corrie and ex 1990s guitarist Dino Bardot entering the picture. The build-up that opens the title track is exciting and sounds like the background music to an action movie trailer. On the other hand I could do without the less than inspiring refrain of “I’m a lazy boy” chant in “Lazy Boy”.
The 80s keyboards are a nice touch in “Lois Lane”. “Huck and Jim” sounds like two mediocre song stuck together. Maybe I’m a sucker for slower FF tracks (see: “Eleonor Put Your Boots Back On“) but the much maligned “The Academy Award” is the song that sticks the most when the disc has stopped spinning. I don’t think it’s a great song but the stylized up-tempo numbers mostly blend together and unlike past releases, very little here particularly stands out.
Back in 2003/04 the British music press hyperbole machine was in full throttle mode. Most likely buoyed by flagging magazine sales, weekly articles wrote lovingly of a Britpop renaissance. The leaders of this new school were undoubtedly a four piece from Glasgow named after the Archduke of Austria, Franz Ferdinand. Their 2004 Wire indebted debut featured the breakout hit “Take Me Out” that formed a formidable one-two punch for rock along with The White Stripes “Seven Nation Army”. Two more good but uneven albums followed and now four years on since their last release; Right Words, Right Thoughts, Right Actions see the once mighty foursome reappear.
Lead off track “Right Action” gets things started with toe tapping brilliance. Surely one of the ridiculously catchy songs of the year leads into “Evil Eye” which would have fit in nicely on their self-titled debut – all spiky guitars and shouty slogans. Things don’t slow down until towards the end with the semi-electronic pulses of “The Universe Expanded”.
Back in 2004 Franz perfectly nailed angular indie rock and they have been trying to catch up ever since. On past releases the band had expanded their sound to include bedsit ballads (“The Sound of You Walking Away”) and electronic freak-outs (“Lucid Dreams”), Right Words contains none of those. What you get is back to basics Franz Ferdinand on an album that is unlikely to win new fans and will give doubters plenty of ammunition, but it is one that long term admirers will rejoice in.