Album review: Franz Ferdinand - Always Ascending

Franz Ferdinand  Always Ascending (Domino Records).
Franz Ferdinand Always Ascending (Domino Records).

More than four years after their last record, Scottish art-rockers Franz Ferdinand are back, and it’s like they’ve never been away.

For while most of their contemporaries have enjoyed their fallen by the wayside, their shimmering indie-disco-rock has evolved, rather than merely retreading familiar ground.

That's down to two things: first their 2015's collaboration with Sparks as FFS, which saw them delve even deeper into electro-pop territory.

And secondly there's the fact that one of the original four members, guitarist Nick McCarthy, is no longer on board.

Before they began making this fifth studio album, he decided he wouldn't be involved in its recording and touring, concentrating instead on his family and other musical projects.

That gave frontman Alex Kapranos, bassist Bob Hardy and drummer Paul Thomson the opportunity not just to replace him with The 1990s' Dino Bardot, but also to add a keyboard player, Julian Corrie.

The new five-piece line-up of Franz Ferdinand.

The new five-piece line-up of Franz Ferdinand.

Bardot wasn't involved in the making of the album, but Corrie was, and his influence is apparent on songs like Glimpse Of Love and Feel The Love Go.

I wasn't sure what to make of the first song I heard, the title track; it was like they'd been listening to too much Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, but as an introduction to the 'new Franz' sound, and in the context of the album, it works perfectly.

It opens the way for the rebirth of a group who could have run out of ideas years ago. They haven't, and, as so often happens after the introduction of new members, they sound reinvigorated.

One of my favourite moments is Lois Lane, a more grown-up version of early single Matinee, if you will ("at the over 30s singles night, it's bleak, it's bleak, it's bleak ... see you next week.")

But the highspot among the 10 tracks for me is the Weezer-like Huck and Jim, and it's brilliant payoff line "We're going to America, we're gonna tell them about the NHS, when we get there we'll all hang out, sipping Bucky with the boys."

It's good to have Franz Ferdinand back, still relevant, still moving forward, but never forgetting where they've come from. Long may they reign. 8/10.